Most couples end their marriage or domestic partnership by getting it legally dissolved. This is called getting a divorce.
Once a divorce is final, each person is single. Each is again legally able to marry or register a domestic partnership.
Each person can ask the judge to order child support, spousal or partner support, child custody and visitation, division of property, domestic violence restraining orders, and other orders.
The couple must meet California's residency requirements to get a divorce.
Sometimes, people don't want to get divorced, but they want to live apart and make their own decisions about money, property and parenting issues.
Legal separation does not end a marriage or domestic partnership. The people are not legally free to marry or register a domestic partnership with someone else.
Like a divorce, each person may ask the judge to order child support, spousal or partner support, child custody and visitation orders, division of property, domestic violence restraining orders and other orders.
The couple does not have to meet the same residence requirements to get a legal separation as they do for a divorce.
Rarely, a court will rule that a marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid. A marriage or domestic partnership that involves incest, for example, is never valid. Other marriages or domestic partnerships can be declared "void" because of force, fraud, mental incapacity, or because one of the spouses or partners was too young to legally marry or register a domestic partnership.
Like divorce, annulment ends a marriage or registered domestic partnership. Each person is legally free to marry or register a new domestic partnership.
Unlike a divorce, to complete an annulment, you must have a hearing before a judge.
Unlike divorce, the couple does not have to meet California's residency requirements to get an annulment.
The only two grounds for divorce in California are:
irreconcilable differences, or
permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.
Normally, people just give "irreconcilable differences" as their reason for wanting a divorce. They don't have to prove anything. There is no "guilty" or "non-guilty" person, from the court's point of view. Sometimes you will hear this referred to as a "no fault" divorce. This means that you can get a divorce without having to prove that someone did something wrong or is "at fault" for the divorce. The only thing the court is interested in is helping the separating spouses or partners reach a fair agreement about how their life will change after the divorce so they can move ahead to rebuild their lives.