Grounds for Divorce in California
California law has simplified the divorce process by establishing only two legal grounds for divorce:
- Irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage
- Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.
These are general and intentionally vague concepts that divorce lawyers use as the basis for their divorce cases. But this leaves some questions for the prospective client. This is sometimes called “no-fault divorce.” Whether we’re talking about a contested or an uncontested divorce, these are the grounds upon which a judgment can grant an order of divorce.
- What about adultery, abuse, and neglect?
In some states, adultery and other grounds still exist. But California decided that it was best for the couple to not fight over the reason for the divorce and just accept the fact that the divorce is happening and move on to more important matters, such as property division and child custody. For example, when you visit a San Diego divorce lawyer, they will want to hear about what led to the marital dissolution. But the court will not consider these details in the divorce judgment. So long as one party can show that the marriage cannot be redeemed, the court will grant a divorce.
- Is fault considered in property division and alimony?
No, it is not in California. Some states award a greater amount of alimony or property to a spouse who has been wronged through adultery or other abuse. As your divorce attorney will tell you, this approach is considered antiquated in California. The only factors that weigh into alimony and property division are financial. A spouse does not get punished by the court financially for adultery.
- What does “irreconcilable differences” mean?
It means circumstances that a judge determines have ended the marriage. It can be anything from a disagreement that the spouses cannot resolve to adultery to abuse. So while the underlying cause of the split may be adultery, the grounds for the divorce will still be labeled “irreconcilable differences.”
- What is “permanent legal incapacity to make decisions,” and how does that process play out?
This means that a doctor has determined that one spouse is unable to make decisions for him- or herself. This could be the result of a traumatic injury, illness or psychological disorder. The court has to determine, based on medical testimony, that incapacity is permanent.
- It sounds cruel to be permitted to leave a spouse who is gravely ill. How can the state allow it?
Like most things, it’s not that simple. The California Code also states that a divorcing spouse in this circumstance is not relieved of financial obligations. So if a spouse tells his family law attorney that he wants to divorce his gravely ill wife, the divorce lawyer will remind him that he still has to totally financially support his ex-spouse. Alimony is calculated based on the ability of a spouse to earn money. An incapacitated spouse cannot earn any money and so would be under the financial care of his or her ex-spouse for life, most likely.
- Are these the only grounds for ending a marriage?
Actually, no. California law also has a concept of annulment. This is where a court rules that a marriage never happened. There are several grounds for annulment, including incest and polygamy, as well as marriages entered into by force or coercion, where a spouse is below the age of consent, where the spouse was not of sound mind at the time, or through fraud.
When looking for a divorce lawyer in San Diego, consider these issues and how to approach the discussion of reasons for divorce.
Contact San Diego Family Law Attorney Richard M. Renkin
Attorney Richard M. Renkin provides experienced representation for child custody matters in the San Diego area. He is also a trained family law mediator. If you have questions about any type of child custody matter, feel free to call (619) 299-7100, or contact the Law Office of Renkin & Associates online today.