What Are My Options for Ending a Marriage or Domestic Partnership in CA?

If you are ending a marriage or domestic partnership in California, you have three options: divorce, legal separation, and annulment. In this post, we will go over the details of each option so you can make the best choice for your situation.

In any case, you will benefit from the help of a divorce lawyer to help navigate the California legal system. Laws vary between states, so enlisting a lawyer familiar with how your state handles marriages and domestic partnerships is key. Let’s explore your options for ending a marriage or domestic partnership in California.


Divorce is the most common and well-known way to end a marriage, also called dissolution of marriage. California is a “no-fault” state for divorce, meaning neither spouse is required to prove their circumstances warrant a divorce beyond irreconcilable differences or, put simply, not getting along with your spouse.

There are some residency requirements to file for divorce in California:

  • Either spouse must have lived in California for at least six months.
  • Either spouse must have lived in the county they are filing for divorce in for at least three months.

California law also allows for a method of ending marriage called a “summary dissolution of marriage.” This method is essentially a simplified divorce process. Couples can only file a summary dissolution of marriage if they agree on all issues and have signed an agreement about their division of property and debts. 

Spouses are also required to have been married for less than five years from their marriage date to their separation date, and they cannot have any children together or have acquired  more than $6,000 in debt throughout the marriage.

Legal Separation

Unlike divorce, separation doesn’t quite end the marriage. A legal separation is comparable to divorce when it comes to property division and setting support terms, but you are still technically married and therefore not “single” when you are separated. 

Legal separations still result in dividing finances, property, and other assets and establishing custody orders for children. However, a legally separated couple is prohibited from entering a new marriage or domestic partnership until they pursue a divorce. 

Legal separation is a good option for couples who don’t have any intention of getting married to someone else but who still want to divide their assets and part ways. Some couples with religious beliefs against divorce may choose this route. Commonly, legally separated couples later file for an official divorce.


The least common option for ending a marriage is an annulment. The annulment process is very different from the other ways of ending a marriage in California. The annulment process determines that the marriage was never legally valid. A marriage that the court deems “void” would qualify for an annulment. The circumstances in which couples can seek an annulment are minimal, including:

  • The marriage was incestuous, or one spouse was already married or in a domestic partnership with somebody else (bigamous).
  • Either partner was under the age of 18 when they got married.
  • Either partner proves the other was mentally or physically incapacitated at the time of the marriage, or they were forced or frauded into the marriage.
  • Absence of spouse. This means that either party was already legally married, but the former spouse was absent for five years and the new marriage took place based on the fact that the absent spouse was not known to be alive or generally thought to be dead.

The annulment-seeking spouse has the burden to prove the facts and circumstances around one or more of the above conditions existed. This is not an easy task, which is why it is highly recommended to seek counsel and advice from an experienced divorce attorney.

A divorce lawyer from Monarch Family Law can help you choose which path is best if you are ending a marriage or domestic partnership in California, you have three options: divorce, legal separation, and annulment.

Let us help you get the desirable outcome you seek. Contact Monarch Family Law today to learn more about our family law representation.