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How can I end my marriage or domestic partnership in California?

As much as we would like our relationships to last forever, sometimes that just is not possible. People who are in unhealthy marriages or domestic partnerships may decide that getting a divorce is the best option for themselves and their families. If you decide to end your marriage or partnership, there a few options available.

Once you have decided to go through with the divorce, you can start planning your case with a divorce lawyer to save you time and money in the long run. This is particularly true if you have high-value assets or property, or if you have minor children. In "no fault" states, like California, you do not have to prove that your spouse or partner did something wrong to end the marriage. The only thing you need to say is that you had "irreconcilable differences" and could no longer get along. It is important to note that once one spouse or partner has decided to end the marriage, the other has no power to stop the marriage from ending. If your spouse or partner refuses to go along with the divorce process, the court will grant a default judgment and the divorce will be finalized even without their consent.

Ending a domestic partnership generally requires that you to file for divorce, legal separation or annulment. If you have no children and minimal assets, and have been registered for less than five years, there may be a shorter summary process through the Secretary of State that you can use to end your partnership. Domestic partners should also be aware that their rights to certain benefits may change if they leave California, as some states do not recognize domestic partnerships.

The divorce process can be complicated, depending on your circumstances. If you are planning to separate, it may be in your best interest to talk to an attorney as soon as possible.

Source: California Courts, "Basics," accessed on Dec. 5, 2017

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