Ending a Marriage or Domestic Partnership (Divorce & Separation)

What will I learn about ending a marriage or domestic partnership?

    How to end a marriage or domestic partnership.How to end a marriage or domestic partnership while you are incarcerated.How to get a divorce if you have an order not to contact your spouse or if you cannot find your spouse after you are released.What will happen if your spouse wants a divorce while you are incarcerated.
How can I end my marriage or domestic partnership?

A marriage or domestic partnership can end by the following legal cases: divorce, legal separation, annulment, or summary dissolution. The following chart defines each way to end a marriage or domestic partnership, how to get it, and how to respond to a request to end a marriage or domestic partnership.

this chart provides more information on how to end a legal relationship:

Comparing Divorce, Legal Separation, Annulment, and Summary Dissolution

General Questions About Each Type


Legal Separation[2521]


Summary Dissolution[2523]

What is it?

A divorce ends your marriage or domestic partnership.

There are several requirements:

(1) You must be a resident of California for at least 6 months

(2) You must be a resident of the county in California for at least 3 months[2524]

If you cannot or do not want a divorce, you can ask for a legal separation. By doing so, you can ask the court for orders about what to do with money you share, property, or parenting issues.

An annulment is when a court says your marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid. Examples include:

    Marriage of incest (where close blood relatives are married);
    Bigamous (where a person is already married or in a domestic partnerships with another.
    Other marriages that may be declared “void” may be based on:
    Age at the time of the marriage (if a person was under 18 at the time)
    Prior existing marriages.
    A person was of “unsound mind”. This means that a person was not able to understand the nature of the marriage and the requirements of being married.

This is a type of divorce that does not require you going to court It is not available to everyone so you should make sure you are eligible before you apply. You may not need to hire a lawyer either.

BUT REMEMBER: It is in your best interest to see a lawyer about how to end your marriage or domestic partnership.

How do I get it?

You will have to file several forms, serve the forms, Please see Appendix J for detailed information but here is a general overview of the steps:
(1)Fill out court forms. To file for divorce or legal separation, you have to fill out the same forms. If you want specific legal advice about how to fill out your court forms, talk to a lawyer.
(2) File court forms/
(3) Serve court forms on the other person (“party”).

(4) Fill out and serve your financial disclosure forms.

You will have to file several forms. See Appendix K on PG. 822 for the exact steps on how to do this.

You will have to go in front of a judge and prove that one of the above reasons applies to you and your marriage or domestic partnership. Annulments are extremely rare! Be sure to talk to a lawyer BEFORE you go before a judge so you can talk to someone about whether this is best for you.

For steps on getting an annulment, see Appendix K on PG. 822 for more information.

If you are MARRIED, you must qualify for a summary dissolution. To find out if you qualify and the steps you must take, see Appendix K on PG. 822.

If you are in a DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP or a SAME-SEX DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP OR MARRIAGE, you can visit Appendix K on PG. 822 to see if you qualify and the steps you must take.

What is the effect of getting one?

You will no longer be married so you may remarry, file your taxes differently.

You will not be able to marry someone else, BUT you will have court orders based on what you and your partner requested such as instructions on joint custody.

Since an annulment treats your relationship as having never been “valid” (lawful), your rights and obligations to your children, property, money that is owed may need to be established in court.

This has the same effect as divorce.

How do I respond?

First, read all the papers you receive: thee should include a petition (Form FL-100), and Summons (Form FL-110). READ THESE PAPERS CAREFULLY!

If you agree with everything—including how to separate property and arrange for custody or visitation of your child(ren)—your situation is considered “uncontested.”

If you or your partner DO NOT agree with everything, your situation is considered “contested” and you may want to consider mediation. For more information on mediation, see PG. 798. In a contested matter, you can also ask for a separate trial to discuss the things you disagree about. Trials can be complicated; find more information in Appendix K on PG. 822.

If your partner filed first, you must make sure you read the Petition (Form FL-100) VERY CAREFULLY. This form, along with The Summons (Form FL 110), tells you your rights and what to do. It may also include information on restraining orders and what you can or cannot do without the court’s consent.

Read all the papers you receive which should include a petition (Form FL-100), and Summons (Form FL-110) CAREFULLY.

And most importantly, Talk to a lawyer IMMEDIATELY! The law that applies to getting an annulment is very complicated and no website can explain it fully.

If you and your partner are getting a summary dissolution, then both of you would know because one of the requirements is that both you AND your partner agree.

If you cannot find your partner, or you or your partner do not want to get a divorce, you cannot get a summary dissolution. However you may be able to get a divorce. Follow the steps on how to get a divorce on Appendix K on PG. 822.

What else could help me in legally ending my relationship?

Whether you are seeking a divorce, annulment, legal separation or summary dissolution, you may want to look into mediation to help you and your partner come to agreements in the process. For more information on mediation, see PG. 798.

  1. 2520

    Cal. Fam. Code §§ 2300 – 2452.

  2. 2521

    Cal. Fam. Code §§ 2300 – 2452.

  3. 2522

    Cal. Fam. Code §§ 2200-2255.

  4. 2523

    Cal. Fam. Code §§ 2400 – 2406.

  5. 2524

    Cal. Fam. Code §§ 2320-2322.