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Before Going to Court

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Once a divorce is final, the people involved are legally able to marry or register a partnership with someone else. You should know, however, that there is more than one way to end a relationship, including:

Dissolution. This is the option that most people think of when they talk about divorce.
In a dissolution of marriage or a registered domestic partnership, the court makes final decisions regarding how the couple will divide what they own and what they owe, whether one person will receive financial support, and other related issues. 

NOTE: Couples who have been married or in a registered domestic partnership for less than five (5) years as of the date of separation can use a shortened process to handle their divorce called Summary Dissolution. This is only available when:

  • they have no children together,
  • neither of them is seeking spousal support,
  • neither of them has any interest in real property,
  • they do not own or owe very much,
  • they have no disagreements about how they will divide their belongings
    and debts, and
  • certain other situations

Legal separation. Sometimes people are not quite ready to totally end their marriage or domestic partnership. Instead, they may want to live apart and make their own decisions about money, property, and parenting issues, but stay legally married or in a registered domestic partnership. This option is called "legal separation."

Annulment. Although this is usually more difficult to prove, some people want the court to end their marriage or registered domestic partnership by saying that it was not legal from the beginning. This option is often referred to as an "annulment." The court calls this way of ending the relationship a "nullity of marriage" or "nullity of registered domestic partnership", and it may apply in extreme situations such as an incestuous or bigamous relationship.


In this section, you can find out more about:


At any time, you can:

  • Read answers for Frequently Asked Questions about divorce.
  • Read some general information about How Courts Work, click here. Opens new window
  • Watch some videos with general information about how California's court system works, click here. Opens new window
  • Watch a short video called "Before You Go to Court", click here. Opens new window

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