What Are The Grounds For Divorce In California?

If you want to get a divorce in California, you will need to specify the right grounds for divorce in your divorce petition. This is necessary even though California is a “no-fault” state when it comes to divorce.

It is important to choose the right grounds for divorce, which are different from the grounds for annulling a marriage. Your attorney can ensure that your divorce petition includes the correct grounds and help you take all the right steps necessary to protect your interests throughout the divorce process.

Grounds for Terminating a Marriage

Although most people use the term “divorce” to refer to the process of ending a marriage, officially, California courts often refer to “dissolution” of marriage or “termination” of a marriage. These terms all refer to divorce. By contrast, “nullity” of a marriage is quite different. When a divorce is annulled, it is treated as if it never legally occurred in the first place, in contrast to divorce where an existing marriage is brought to an end.

This distinction is important because there are eight legal grounds for nullity but only two legal grounds for divorce or legal separation. Divorce and legal separation may be granted either on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences” or “permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.” Instances where one spouse is judged incapacitated are fairly rare, so most divorces are sought on the basis of irreconcilable differences.

What are Irreconcilable Differences?

Even when it seems that the meaning of a legal term is obvious, it is always a good idea to see how the term is defined both in statutes and by courts interpreting the statutes. In this case, Section 2311 of the California Family Code specifies that “irreconcilable differences” consist of “those grounds which are determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved.”

In this particular situation, the statutory definition does little to clarify the definition. The reason or grounds for divorce—irreconcilable differences—are defined in the statute essentially as “reasons for ending the marriage.” The statute does specify that the reasons should be “substantial” as “determined by the court.” So what have courts in California determined to be substantial reasons for ending a marriage?

There are numerous examples. Just as every marriage is unique, every divorce is also unique. Some common instances of irreconcilable differences that provide credible grounds for divorce include:

  • Disagreement on whether to have children or how children should be raised
  • Loss of trust between spouses
  • Conflicts with personality and behavior
  • Religious or political differences
  • Long-distance physical separation
  • Excessive fighting
  • Money problems
  • Miscommunication or lack of communication
  • Problems with sexual intimacy
  • Too much focus on work

One way to think of irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce is that you are describing reasons why your marriage is broken and cannot be repaired or saved.

How Do You Prove Irreconcilable Differences in California?

Although you need to assert grounds to justify the request for a divorce in California, the court does not require you to present evidence to demonstrate that your marriage is irretrievably damaged and why you believe your differences are irreconcilable. This makes the process a true no-fault divorce because you are not obligated to present evidence of wrongdoing or fault.

What Happens When a Divorce is Based on Grounds of Insanity?

Divorce sought on the grounds of “permanent legal incapacity to make decisions” is generally referred to as divorce on grounds of incurable insanity because that was the term used formerly. Unlike divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences, when the grounds for divorce are incapacity/insanity, then the spouse petitioning for divorce needs to present proof of the other spouse’s condition. Specifically, they need testimony from a mental health practitioner to demonstrate that the spouse was and has remained incurably insane since the petition for divorce was filed and that the spouse is expected by medical professionals to remain incapable of making major decisions in the future.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Protects You Through Every Step of the Divorce Process

Divorce is a complex process, and choosing the grounds for divorce is probably the easiest part of that process. The decisions you make regarding property, custody, alimony, and other issues will impact your life for years to come, so it is wise to work with a legal team who is prepared to explain the ramifications of your choices and fight to protect your interests throughout the proceedings.

Holstrom, Block & Parke provides the benefit of 300+ years of experience to every divorce case we handle. To learn more about the ways we can safeguard you in divorce, schedule a consultation today.

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