What Are the Grounds for Divorce in California? 2024

By Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP | Jan 15, 2023

California law has made the process of divorce more straightforward and efficient by recognizing only two legal grounds for divorce: irreconcilable differences and permanent legal incapacity. These grounds provide a more streamlined process for ending a marriage. They also allow for a quicker and more cost-effective resolution.

Irreconcilable Differences

Irreconcilable differences refer to the spouses’ inability to reconcile and continue the marriage. This means that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, and there is no hope for reconciliation. This ground for divorce is often referred to as a “no-fault” divorce, as it does not require the spouses to prove any wrongdoing on the part of either party. It eliminates the need for lengthy and costly legal proceedings to prove faults such as adultery, abandonment, or cruelty. This allows both parties to move on with their lives and begin the process of healing and moving forward.

Permanent Legal Incapacity

Permanent legal incapacity refers to a situation where one spouse cannot make decisions and manage their own affairs due to a permanent condition, such as a severe mental illness or disability. This ground for divorce is typically used when one spouse is unable to understand the nature of the marriage and the legal responsibilities that come with it. Sometimes, the continuation of the marriage would be detrimental to the well-being of one of the parties.

Uncontested Divorce

California law also allows for a simplified process for divorce when both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. It can also be used when one spouse is unable to make decisions due to a permanent condition. This process is known as an “uncontested divorce.” An uncontested divorce can be completed more quickly and at a lower cost than a contested divorce, as it eliminates the need for a trial. This is a great option for couples who have amicably decided to end their marriage. This allows them to avoid the emotional and financial strain of a contested divorce.

Summary Dissolution of Marriage

When both parties agree on the terms of the divorce, they can file a Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution of Marriage, which is a simplified divorce process for couples who meet certain eligibility criteria. To qualify for a summary dissolution, the couple must have:

  • Been married for less than five years
  • No children
  • Less than $40,000 in community property
  • Less than $40,000 in debt

Additionally, both parties must agree on dividing their property and debts and not owning any real property together. This option is great for couples with minimal assets and debts who want to dissolve their marriage as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Contested Divorce

If the parties cannot agree on the terms of the divorce or do not meet the eligibility criteria for a summary dissolution, they may file for a regular divorce, also known as a “contested divorce.” In a contested divorce, the parties must go to trial to resolve any disputes over property, debts, and child custody. A trial can be a lengthy and costly process. It can also be emotionally draining for both parties. Couples need to consider all options and seek the guidance of a family law attorney before deciding on the best course of action.


Q: What is a wife entitled to in a divorce in California?

A: In California, property and debts acquired during the marriage are considered community property. They are divided equally between the spouses in a divorce. This includes assets such as the family home, cars, bank accounts, and investments. Additionally, the court may also consider awarding spousal support, also known as alimony, to one spouse. This will usually occur in scenarios where the other spouse has a higher income or earning potential.

Q: What can be used against you in a divorce in California?

A: In a divorce, any evidence of financial misconduct, such as hiding assets or spending marital funds on extramarital affairs, can be used against a party. Other factors that can be used against a party include a history of domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, or other criminal activity. The court may take any of these into consideration when making final decisions about child custody and support.

Q: How long do you have to be married to get half of everything in California?

A: In California, property and debts acquired during the marriage are considered community property. They will be divided equally between the spouses, regardless of how long the couple has been married. The length of the marriage is only one factor that the court may consider when making decisions about the division of property and debts.

Q: Why would a divorce be denied in California?

A: A divorce may be denied in California if:

  • One of the parties cannot prove that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
  • It cannot be proven that one of the spouses is permanently incapacitated.
  • One party committed fraud or concealed assets during the divorce proceedings.
  • The couple has not been separated for the required six-month period.
  • The couple has not fulfilled the six-month mandatory waiting period after filing the petition.
  • One of the parties is not a resident of the state of California.

Q: Can one party prevent the divorce from being finalized in California?

A: Yes, one party can attempt to prevent the divorce from being finalized in California by not cooperating in the divorce process or by refusing to sign the divorce papers. However, the court can still grant a divorce even if one party is not in agreement, as long as the other party can prove that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that one spouse is permanently incapacitated. Additionally, if one party is not cooperating or hiding assets, the court can consider that when making decisions about property division and support. It is always best to consult with a family law attorney to understand all your rights and options before proceeding with a divorce.

Contact Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, Today

If you are considering filing for divorce in California, or are facing a contested divorce and need legal assistance, the experienced family law attorneys at Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, can provide you with the guidance and support you need. Our attorneys understand that divorce is difficult for everyone involved. We can work with you to ensure that the process goes as smoothly and quickly as possible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to helping you get through this difficult time.

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