Dissolution & Legal Separation
Divorce is called "dissolution" in the California courts. Dissolution legally terminates a marriage and returns a person to single status. Either spouse can seek a dissolution on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Basically, that party is saying the marriage is irreparably broken without claiming anyone is at fault. In fact, questions of fault are inappropriate in a dissolution. Dissolution of marriage is most common but not the only legal means of terminating marital status. Likewise, irreconcilable differences is not the only grounds.
One or the other spouse must live in California for six months. The
person who files (petitioner) must live in the county where filed for
ninety days. The process begins with filing the petition for
"dissolution of marriage" with the court. The other party (respondent)
has thirty days to respond after being served. There are three ways the
case may proceed. It become a default divorce, an uncontested divorce
or a contested divorce. If repondent does not reply or optain an
extension of time then petitioner can seek a default judgement. A
default proceeds without the respondent’s participation. In an
uncontested case the parties work together to settle the issues by way
of written agreement. A contested divorce arises from disagreement with
any allegations or terms of the petition. Generally the issues to
resolve in dissolution include: child custody/support, spousal support,
and division of community property\debts. Finally, there is a summary dissolution that is simpler and less expensive
process where the parties have been married a short period, have no children, and have modest assets and debt.
Legal separation ajudicates the rights and responsibilities associated with marriage while leaving the marital status in place. The six month state and ninety day county residence requirement does not apply in a separation case. Occassionally, for tactical purposes, a party who does not meet the residence requirement may start with legal separation and amended to seek dissolution when the residence requirement is met. Unless the respondent defaults both parties must agree to the legal separation.
Virtually all divorces and separations have significant emotional issues. Hostility, resentment, anger, anxiety and the like are common. When emotional aspects rise to the level that they interfere with your life, professional counseling may be appropriate. Emotional aspects like "fault" are not part of the legal issues of terminating marital status by dissolution.