There are three types of marital actions in California: dissolution (regular or summary), legal separation and nullity.
In California, dissolution is granted on only two grounds: (1) irreconcilable differences or (2) incurable insanity. Cal. Fam. Code § 2310. Court are generally very liberal in the interpretation of whether or not there are irreconcilable differences in a marriage; however, if there is a reasonable possibility of reconciliation, the court must continue the proceeding for no more than 30 days. Cal. Fam. Code § 2334.
A Judgment of Legal Separation may be granted only if (1) both parties consent or (2) the respondent does not appear and the petition requested a legal separation. Cal. Fam. Code § 2345.
For a Judgment of Dissolution, there is a residency requirement that at least one of the parties must have been a resident of California for 6 months and of the county in which the petition was filed for 3 months, immediately preceding the filing of the petition. Cal. Fam. Code § 2320(a). This residency requirement is mandatory and can’t be waived. However, for legal separation, there is no residency requirement.
The third marital action, nullity, may be granted only when a marriage is adjudged void or voidable under conditions provided by statute. In brief, a marriage is void in cases of incest (Cal. Fam. Code § 2200) and bigamy (Cal. Fam. Code § 2201), and is voidable in cases of minority, a current spouse mistakenly believed to be deceased, unsound mind, fraud, force, and physical incapacity (Cal. Fam. Code § 2210).
Unlike a dissolution action, there is no residency require for a Judgment of Nullity. And, unlike a Judgment of Legal Separation, there is no requirement for consent or default. The effect of a Judgment of Nullity is to erase the marriage. It is as though the parties were never married.
Do you have specific questions about which of the above marital actions you should file? Please call us.