A dissolution of marriage is a court proceeding that terminates a marriage, divides marital property between the husband and wife and provides for maintenance, child custody and child support. “Dissolution of Marriage” is the legal term for a divorce.
California allows “no fault” divorces. If one party testifies that “irreconcilable differences have arisen which have led to the irremediable breakdown of the marriage” and “there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved,” then a dissolution is ordinarily granted. On occasion, the other spouse will deny that the marriage is irremediably broken. In this event, the judge must decide whether the marriage is irremediably broken. However, usually a divorce is granted as a matter of course even though one party may deny that it is irremediably broken.
In conjunction with a dissolution of marriage proceeding, the court may divide the parties’ property and debts, make orders pertaining to the custody of and visitation with the children, if any, and make orders as to child and spousal support when appropriate. However, the parties may obtain a dissolution of marriage without requesting any property, custody or support orders. Likewise, the parties may obtain property, custody and support orders without requesting a dissolution of their marriage. The latter occurs most commonly when the parties seek to separate their lives but wish to remain married either to enable one or both parties to remain insured through the other’s insurance policy or to permit both parties to take advantage of the benefits of filing their taxes jointly. When segments of a divorce are resolved in this manner, the separate judgments are referred to as ‘bifurcated judgments.’
In California, a dissolution of marriage is initiated by the filing of a Summons and Petition with the court in the county in which at least one of the parties has resided for a period of three months immediately preceding the filing. Additionally, at least one party must have been a resident of California for at least six months immediately preceding the filing. Once the Summons and Petition are filed and served, California requires a minimum period of six months to pass prior to the termination of the parties’ marriage. Commonly referred to as “the waiting period,” this time is intended to permit the parties an opportunity to reflect on their marriage and decision to seek a dissolution. If the parties change their minds during the waiting period, the case may be dismissed without consequence. The court does not have the ability to terminate a marriage prior to the expiration of the waiting period, even if both parties agree and jointly request that the court do so. Therefore, parties that wish to terminate their marriage prior to the end of a calendar year must file and serve the Summons and Petition no later than June 30th of that year.