• Tracy Duell-Cazes

What are the legal grounds for Divorce in California?

Updated: Nov 22, 2021



In California, there are two legal grounds for divorce:


  • Irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage; and

  • Incurable insanity, only with proof, which includes competent medical or psychiatric testimony that the spouse was incurably insane when the petition was filed, and remains so


California is also a “No-Fault” state which means that you do not have to prove that your spouse did something wrong in order to obtain a divorce. This law was put in place with the realization that not all divorces come about because someone did anything wrong. The “No-fault” provision alleviated the compulsion of a spouse to lie about a spouse’s behavior in order to obtain a divorce. This led to the possibility of the petitioner being accused of perjury and also possible legal action against a spouse who has been wrongly accused and now has to defend him or herself. The accusation, even if unfounded, could have been enough to put the person accused in an extreme hardship situation such as being fired from a job or spending an excessive amount of money on a legal defense.


California is a No Fault State


The “No-Fault” law also states that a divorce may be granted even if only one spouse wants to get divorced. The other spouse cannot legally stop the process and does not even have to participate. If a spouse chooses not to participate, a default judgment will be issued and the divorce will proceed.


If one of the two legal grounds for divorce exist, paperwork to start the process of the divorce can begin if the residency requirement has been met. The residency requirement is that at least one spouse must have lived in California for at least six months prior to filing and in the county that they are filing in for at least three months.

There is also a six-month waiting period. Call it a “cooling off” period to ensure that the decision to divorce was not done in the heat of anger or other emotional state. This helps guarantee that the person filing for divorce is absolutely sure that they wish to proceed.


After these requirements have been met, the divorce process may proceed.

We have also discussed the possibility of an annulment which can be found on our FAQ.

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