These infographics illustrate the ways in which a marriage is terminated and the procedural events.
Potential Sequence of Steps and Procedural Events in a Divorce
Ending a marriage with a Judgment of Legal Separation is used by parties who do not wish to be divorced for religious or other personal reasons. A Judgment of Legal Separation is a marital status. With this status a party:
- is not married
- is not single
- cannot file a joint tax return
- is not liable for debts of the other party
- cannot accumulate community property
Being “separated” is different than having a Judgment of Legal Separation. Being “separated” is not a marital status. To be “separated” at least one party must have formed the intent to end the relationship and have communicated that intent to the other party with words or actions. See Date of Separation Infographic.
A marriage may be terminated with an Annulment. If an Annulment is granted, the marriage never existed and by law the parties were never married to each other. The grounds for an Annulment are fraud (going to the essence of the marriage), bigamy, under-age, unsound mind, force, physical incapacity, and incest.
If a marriage is annulled there still may be a basis for an award of half of the assets that were accumulated during the “marital” period which could be characterized as “quasi-marital property.” An award of spousal support may be granted, if the party had a good faith belief that he/she was legally married. Such a person could be declared a “putative spouse.” A putative spouse may be entitled to the same rights he/she would have received had the marriage been valid in all respects.
If a person did not have a good faith belief that he/she was legally married, the person would be declared a “meritricious spouse” and no rights would accrue relative to the invalid marriage. However, such a spouse could potentially have rights under non-marital contract theories.
Nonmarital Partners, Marvin Actions and Palimony
Property rights, support rights and obligations are predicated on the existence of a valid marriage or registered domestic partnership. The California Family Code, does not apply to a nonmarital relationship. California does not recognize "common law" marriages. Non-marital issues are not adjudicated in a Family Court. Unmarried cohabitants must avail themselves to traditional (non-family law) legal and equitable remedies to enforce any property rights, support rights and/or financial obligations arising out of a nonmarital relationship.