What are grounds for divorce in California?
California has drastically simplified the divorce process by establishing two legal grounds for divorce:
- Irreconcilable differences, which have caused a breakdown in the marriage
- Permanent incapacity to make decisions
Bottom line, these are two general and vague concepts which divorce lawyers in Los Angeles can use as basis for a divorce. This is sometimes called a no-fault divorce. Whether we’re talking about contested, or uncontested divorces, these are grounds which can be used to grant an order of divorce. In some states, adultery and other grounds still exist for divorce. California has decided that its best that the reason for divorce is not in contest — and that the state simply accept that the divorce is happening, and instead the state should focus on more important matters like property, assets, and children. In California/Los Angeles, fault is not considered in property division and alimony. Some states award a greater amount of alimony to a spouse who has been wronged as a result of adultery. As your Los Angeles divorce lawyer will tell you, this approach is not followed in California. The only factors that weigh into alimony and property division are financial issues. Spouses don’t get punished by the court for adultery.
In California, a divorce can be offered for irreconcilable differences. It essentially means, circumstances that a judge determines have ended the marriage. It can be virtually anything from a disagreement that spouses cannot resolve, to adultery, or abuse.
In some instances, California laws will let your Los Angeles divorce lawyer offer a divorce if there’s a permanent legal incapacity to make decisions. It means the doctor has determined that your spouse is incapable of making decisions. This can be the result of illness, psychological disorder, or injury.
Are there rules that my spouse and I must follow during the divorce process?
Even though divorce is common in the USA, the process will vary. Short term marriages without children or property, can result in a less complex and time consuming divorce than marriages which are long term marriage. For example, divorce couples who have child custody, property division, debt, and spousal support, will have a less stressful divorce than couples who agree/refuse to work together on the divorce proceedings.
The first step is filing the divorce petition. Regardless of whether both spouses agree to it or not, one spouse can file a legal petition to ask the court to terminate the marriage. The spouse who files the petition has to include some preliminary information, such as:
- statement which tells the court that at least one of the spouses meets the state’s residency requirements for divorce
- legal reason for the divorce
- any other statutory info that the state requires
Residency requirement vary, depending on where you live. States require that at least one spouse live in the state anywhere from 3 months to 12 months. Divorcing spouses have to meet the state’s residency requirements before the court is allowed to legally accept the divorce case. Bottom line, your divorce attorney can help you.
Grounds for divorce will vary from one state to the next. Many states offer a no-fault divorce.
Can I get a legal separation or an annulment instead of a divorce?
If you’re unhappy about being married, but don’t want to get divorced, whether for legal reasons, or religious reasons, there might be alternative methods. Depending on your situation, an annulment or separation could be better.
Annulment: This is different from a divorce. While both end a marriage, the two do not accomplish the dissolution of the marriage in quite the same way. Divorce legally ends the marriage, but it recognizes the existence of the marriage. An annulment has the effect of erasing the marriage. An annulment can only be granted on legal or religious grounds. Generally, states only grant an annulment in certain situations. One reason, is to prevent couples from going around the divorce laws – because these laws were meant to protect spouses. There are grounds for annulment. In an annulment, there generally has to be someone whose at fault. For example, a reason for annulment can be fraud or misrepresentation. You cannot get one, just because your husband/wife has a drinking problem and goes to the liquor store too often, and needs a hangover cure. In oder to get an annulment on this basis, one of the parties has to have lied about something material, such as whether they were married to someone else already. The lie has to be significant. Fo example, it must be something you should have known about – and if you had known this information, you would not have agreed to marry the spouse.
Another basis for annulment can be concealment. This involves hiding material information, instead of lying about it. Concealment is when someone discloses to fail something about themselves that is major. One example is having a criminal record.
Is there a simplified process for getting a divorce?
If you decide to get a divorce, there are a few ways to get a divorce in a simple manner. You may be worried about legal costs, how much time it’ll take, and whether you’re making the right move. But not all divorces have to be expensive, or last for years. There are simple ways to get a divorce. The process doesn’t have to take years, or even months. If you’re able to come to an agreement with your spouse, your divorce can happen quickly.
The easiest type of divorce, is called an uncontested divorce. This is a relatively fast divorce because all of the major issues have been agreed upon by you and your spouse right at the beginning. In contrast, a contested divorce is one where all the parties cannot agree on some, or all, of the issues. It may require going to trial, and could require lengthy settlement meetings. It may also involve digging into your spouse’s personal info, like finances, which can take time and energy.
Uncontested divorces are simpler ways to get divorce, and take less time, because you and your spouse have already agreed on how to handle things like:
- Child Support
- Spousal Support
- Division of Property and Debt
How do I file for divorce?
There are a few ways to handle divorce in Los Angeles. If you’re representing yourself in a divorce, you’ll need to complete standard forms to begin the process. You can find these forms on the California Courts website online. The Courts website provides instructions on every single form. Typically, it’s a good idea to review the free information provided as you work your way through the divorce process in Los Angeles. Each of the courts use the same basic divorce forms, but some people might have to complete other forms depending on where they live. California has a lot of self-help centers throughout the state. If you have questions on which form to use, you can visit one of the self-help centers, or talk with a court clerk. The Los Angeles superior court website is a is a great website where you can find info.
How can I get information from my spouse about our property and finances?
It’s unfortunate, but often spouses attempt to hide assets before, or during, a divorce, in order to avoid splitting them with their spouse. However, spouses in all states have legal tools available, to help them “discover” hidden income and assets. For example, if a Phoenix personal injury lawyer helped your spouse get a personal injury settlement, this could be part of your joint finances. The first step in dividing assets during a divorce is painting a financial picture of all the assets owned by each spouse. You should have an idea of what assets you have, and categorize them as marital assets and separate assets, and tell your divorce attorney about it. Using the “discovery,” legal process, you can discover assets that the other spouse has. If your spouse handled all the bookkeeping of the assets during the marriage, and you played no part in finances, then you are an “out-spouse.” It means you have no access to, or knowledge of, your financial information – but your spouse does. If you’re the “out-spouse,” then your first course of action is to ask your spouse for copies of all the financial records. If your spouse is willing to produce and gather documents, then this process won’t be too painful. This is rarely the case. With online access to everything nowadays, it’s easy to get accounting records. Many spouses refuse to provide info because they’re hiding assets. Finding hidden assets can be challenging. The process of finding assets, when your spouse isn’t voluntarily disclosing them, is known as the discovery process. This provides you with methods to get information.
Document Demands: Your attorney can ask your spouse to produce information and documents, like tax returns, financial statements, etc.
Interrogatories: Your spouse must answer questions in writing, or admit specific remarks.
Inspection demands: You can ask to inspect property.
Testimony under oath: You, and your spouse, and lawyers, will appear before a court reporter. Your spouse is sworn, under oath, and must tell the truth, and is asked questions by your attorney.
Bottom line, the discovery process is an invaluable way of getting information from your uncooperative spouse, because the court has the power to compel the spouse. If your spouse fails to produce documents, the judge can order your spouse to do so. If your spouse disobeys this order, then the judge will punish the spouse by imposing a sanction, such as a fine, or judgement.
How will our property be divided?
Debts, finances, property, everything is divided in the divorce. Couples must agree to divide marital property and debt, before the judge grants the request for a divorce. Couples usually have two choices: work together to determine who gets which property, or ask the court to divide it for you. If you live in a community property state like California, the court assumes that any assets, or debts, accrued during the marriage belong 50/50 to both spouses. If you have property that belongs to you, whether you brought it with you to the marriage, or acquired it on your own – during the relationship, you’ll need to ask the court to award the property to you.