By Marissa A. Oxman, Esq.
Someone looking to end a marriage needs to make a decision about what kind of case to file. The form that must be filed to start a divorce proceeding in California (the FL-300 published by the Judicial Counsel of California) has three check boxes at the top. Each represents a different kind of marriage case– Dissolution, Legal Separation, and Nullity. Each type has its own set of goals.
- Dissolution – This is the most common case involving married couples. It is what people think of they hear “divorce.” A Dissolution Case is designed to terminate spouses’ legal marital status, divide their assets and debts, decide whether alimony is appropriate, and make sure any children are cared for with custody and child support orders.
- Legal Separation – Legal separations are very similar to Dissolutions. The only significant difference is the legal marital status (i.e., single vs. married). A Legal Separation Case will divide spouses’ assets, decide whether alimony is appropriate, and make sure any children are cared for with custody and child support orders. But it will terminate spouses’ legal marital status and restore them to the status of single people. That means that when the case is over, spouses will not legally be able to go out and marry someone else. It’s recommended for people who want to separate their assets, but who are not quite ready to leave the relationship part of their marriage.
- Nullity – This is what people think of when they hear “annulment.” A Nullity Case will decide whether a marriage was legally valid to begin with. If the marriage was not valid, the Court will make custody and support orders for any children involved. It will also make orders dividing any assets and debts. Generally, but not always, those property orders are made without considering California community property laws.
In addition to these cases, there are also cases that can be opened in family court that do not deal marriage or property. A Paternity Case can be filed to get custody and child support orders for children when the parents were never married. A Petition for Custody and Support of a Minor can be filed to get custody and child support orders for children when their married parents are not interested in dividing their property or terminating their marital status. Domestic Violence cases can be filed to keep intimate partners and/or family members away from each other when someone is being harassed or abused.
Filing the right case for your goals is important. Filing the wrong case can delay the process, costing time and money.
This blog is not meant to provide legal advice, and the law may have changed since it was written. Every person and every case is different. You should speak with an attorney about your specific circumstances. But, Core Law Group, LLP can help you evaluate your goals and pick the best type of case foryou. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.