In California, there are typically three ways to end your ongoing marital relationship:
Divorce, or what is professionally called “dissolution,” is the garden variety family law case. The effect of a divorce is that the parties are considered single – or no longer legally married – under the law and may therefore re-marry at their leisure.
When you talk with a California Family Law Attorney, you will discuss several kinds of divorces. For example, one distinction is whether the divorce is amicable or not? When family law attorneys say “amicable,” they typically mean to ask whether you and the other party can go through the legal process and reach an agreement without litigation. Oftentimes, this is impossible. You may have just told the other party you are getting a divorce and your partner is still fighting to accept the reality of the situation. There may be significant financial assets at stake that you or the other party plan to fight over. If you have children, you and the other party may have drastically different ideas about the appropriate child custody arrangement.
There is no doubt about it: an amicable divorce is the least expensive, least contentious type. Pakpour Banks LLP can assist you with your amicable divorce by explaining your rights and responsibilities, and taking care of the necessary paperwork. In many cases, you and the other party will never have to walk into a courthouse at all.
Other times, you and the other party cannot reach an agreement, and your issues will need to be decided by a judge. You are not alone. It is at this critical juncture that your legal interests are in their greatest jeopardy.
Legal Separation: Divorce should be distinguished from legal separation, in which two parties remain legally married, however decide for one reason or another that they can no longer live together, or continue a marital relationship. The upshot is that, once you are legally separated, you are not single, meaning you cannot legally marry another individual.
There are two typical reasons parties opt for legal separation over dissolution. First, some individuals hold religious beliefs or convictions that frown upon divorce. Therefore, to accomplish an amicable living situation without the cultural stigma of divorce, those individuals may file for legal separation instead of dissolution. The other typical reason for choosing legal separation is the ability to cover one’s spouse as a beneficiary under the other party’s health insurance plan. Where parties agree to live separate and apart, yet wish to maintain health insurance for one another, and neither plans to remarry anytime soon, this can be an attractive option. Be aware, however, that some insurance providers have caught onto this arrangement and have made it a policy to reject the spouses of policy holders who are legally separated. Refer to your plan’s administrator for guidance.
Nullity: The final way to end one’s marriage to another living individual is through a nullity proceeding. In a nullity, the Petitioner argues that the marriage was either void from the start and unrecognizable by law, or that the marriage was voidable under certain grounds. For example, one cannot be simultaneously married to two people in California.
If one discovered that his or her spouse was married to another individual at the time of his or her marriage, the later marriage would be void as a matter of law as it violates the state laws against bigamy. Incest is another ground for a “void” marriage. Contrast this with so-called “voidable” marriages, those that may be voided by one or both parties on certain grounds. One typical ground for a nullity is fraud, which is the inducement of one to marry based on a lie. For example, if a man told a woman he wanted to marry her so that the two could have children, and the woman failed to reveal she knew that she was clinically unable to bare children, the husband may have grounds for a nullity. We say “may,” because nullities are not slam dunks. The judge must make the call over whether the act constituted fraud or other grounds for a voidable marriage.
Self-help tip: Because of the difficulty proving fraud, or a voidable marriage, litigants are highly encouraged to request both divorce and nullity. That way, if the judge denies the nullity, she may still grant the divorce. She cannot grant the divorce, however, if the litigant never requested it.