Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Divorce, Dissolution, and Legal Separation – The Differences - Pride Legal

In California, there are many ways of legally separating from your partner. California couples who seek to terminate their marriage have the option of filing for either a separation, divorce, or dissolution. Every marriage is unique, and therefore the right avenue of legal separation depends upon the given circumstances. This information may assist you in deciding which option is right for you.


In California, the definition of divorce is a legal termination of a marriage. In a divorce, spouses seek to dissolve their partnership and cease all legal and financial ties. To be eligible for divorce in California, you must have resided in California for a minimum of six months and the county in which you wish to file your petition for a minimum of three months.

In most cases, both spouses do not need to agree to the divorce. If one spouse pursues divorce and the other spouse does not, a default judgment will likely be placed on the resistant spouse. Due to California’s absence of a fault law, fault does not need to be proven when filing for divorce. But before filing for divorce, both spouses must agree on decisions such as child custody, division of property, and support. If both spouses cannot reach an agreement, the California court will make a decision on their behalf.

Divorce often becomes stressful, messy, and emotionally draining for both associated parties. It is typical that both spouses’ judgments become impaired due to emotional distress. Although court proceedings are not always necessary in divorce cases, they may benefit both parties. Spouses who cannot agree on complicated decisions may benefit from court determinations. Pride Legal’s Divorce Attorneys reach fair divorce agreements in a civil manner.

Summary Dissolution

In California, a summary dissolution is a simpler divorce process. If eligible for a summary dissolution, married couples may save time by filing less paperwork and not needing to appear at court proceedings. Couples must meet all of the following requirements in order to be eligible for a summary dissolution:

  • Have been married for five years or less.
  • Did not have any children during the marriage and wife is not impregnated
  • Neither spouse owns a home or other real estate.
  • Spouses’ combined property does not exceed $40,000
  • Community debt is less than $6,000 (not including auto loans).
  • Both spouses agree to waive alimony.
  • A written division of assets and debt exists.

A summary dissolution is best for couples who choose to terminate their marriage in its early years, before acquiring financial and personal entanglements. Summary dissolutions are much cheaper and easier to deal with than typical divorces, but the strict requirements make many people ineligible for them. Dissolutions also depend on both spouses agreeing on all aspects of the divorce. If a couple cannot agree on the dissolution, then divorce would be more suitable.

Legal Separation

A legal separation does not end a marriage and does not constitute that spouses can marry others. A legal separation allows couples to live in separate residences and not be obligated to consult one another for decisions on parenting, finances, and assets. In California, there are no residency requirements needed to file for legal separation. Legal separations involve both parents coming to agreements on how both parents will provide child support, alimony, and other payments. This process is the same as the divorce process, and if both parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will need to step in and decide.

Legal separations have some benefits over divorce. With a legal separation, couples do not need to meet the state’s residency requirements to file for divorce. California law requires that the person filing for divorce must have resided in the state of California for 6 months. Couples who file for legal separation can also use each other’s health insurance, but with divorce, that option is off the table.

Couples may seek legal separation if they are hesitant to file for divorce and prefer to provisionally separate themselves and their belongings.


Annulments are uncommon but are often viewed as the easiest way to terminate a marriage. An annulment is a legal procedure to declare that a marriage never existed. An annulled marriage never legally existed and gives both partners a clean slate to begin their life. Grounds for annulled marriages include force, fraud, bigamy, physical/mental incapacity, or being married underage. In annulled divorces, the California court makes all final decisions on assets, children, and other significant decisions.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one is seeking divorce, dissolution, legal separation, or annulment, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.

Share This