California Divorce Options: Divorce, Annulment, & Legal Separation

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

California divorces; California Divorce MediatorsUnder California state law, marriages or registered domestic partnerships can be ended in 3 ways – divorce, legal separation and annulment. But each method has its own requirements. Both parties in a marriage or partnership are not required to file for any of these procedures. The party that files for any one of these procedures will receive a judgment by default.

Legal separation

A legal separation is considered to be the foundation for a divorce. A legal separation entails a complicated court process. It involves attorneys and judges. When matters related to child custody, child support, property division and spousal support remain unresolved between separating couples; a legal procedure needs to be followed to reach an agreement.

During legal separation, couples live separately but are not allowed to remarry or enter into another domestic partnership. The procedures of filing a legal separation or a divorce in California are, however, very similar.


In California, divorces can be sought on the grounds of ‘no fault’. A ‘no fault’ divorce does not require any of the parties to prove that something wrong was done by the other partner or spouse. They can site ‘irreconcilable differences’ as a reason for ending the marriage or partnership. While filing for a divorce, if the requirements of ‘summary dissolution’ are met, you do not need to appear in front of a judge for a judgment. It is then called a regular divorce.

Some of the requirements for summary dissolution include –

  • You have been married for less than 5 years.
  • You do not have or are expecting any children together.


An annulment is filed when the marriage or partnership is not considered to be legally valid. If an annulment is granted, it means that the union never occurred or existed. In an annulment, spousal support is not paid. Property division is not done by following community property laws. If children were born during this partnership or marriage, paternity has to be established.

The reasons for annulment may include –

  • The party/parties were not of legal marriageable age (18 yrs) when the marriage or partnership occurred.
  • The parties are related by blood.
  • Either of the party is already in a marriage or registered domestic partnership.
  • Either of the party was tricked into the marriage or partnership.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation