What are the Legal Grounds for Divorce & Legal Separation in California?

California is a “no fault divorce” state. This means that either the husband or the wife may divorce or legally separate from the other, even without his or her spouse’s consent, and without having to prove wrong doing.

The only legal requirements for either divorce (called “dissolution of marriage”) or legal separation are that there either be “irreconcilable differences” or “permanent legal incapacity to make decisions”. I’ve set out the law below.

Technically, the court must find that there are in fact irreconcilable differences. In practice, however, the courts rarely (if ever) dig into this question. A sworn statement or testimony to the judge that there are irreconcilable differences is typically all that is required.

An Interesting Aside…

Because California is a “no fault” state, the courts refuse to hear any evidence about “bad behavior” by either spouse, such as cheating, emotional abuse, etc., unless it is directly relevant to another legal claim. So don’t expect the judge to listen to you or your spouse about the reasons for the divorce. It’s “irrelevant” to the court, and is also irrelevant to a lawyer, should one represent you.

Any Questions?

Should you have any questions about this topic, I’d love to answer them. Or, if you have any thoughts about whether the law on this topic seems fair, unfair, good or bad.

And Finally, Here’s The Law Verbatim:


2310.  Dissolution of the marriage or legal separation of the
parties may be based on either of the following grounds, which shall
be pleaded generally:
   (a) Irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable
breakdown of the marriage.
   (b) Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.

2311.  Irreconcilable differences are those grounds which are
determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing
the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be

2312.  A marriage may be dissolved on the grounds of permanent legal
incapacity to make decisions only upon proof, including competent
medical or psychiatric testimony, that the spouse was at the time the
petition was filed, and remains, permanently lacking the legal
capacity to make decisions.

2313.  No dissolution of marriage granted on the ground of permanent
legal incapacity to make decisions relieves a spouse from any
obligation imposed by law as a result of the marriage for the support
of the spouse who lacks legal capacity to make decisions, and the
court may make an order for support, or require a bond therefor, as
the circumstances require.



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