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There are a few legal options for a couple or a party wishing to end their marriage or domestic partnership:


Divorce, also known legally as dissolution, is a proceeding that legally terminates a marriage or domestic partnership. Once a divorce is final, both parties are considered single, and may remarry or enter a new domestic partnership.

California Divorce

Under California Family Code section 2310, there are only two legal bases available for divorce in California. The first and by far, the most common of the two is irreconcilable differences causing the irreparable breakdown of the marriage.  The second is incurable insanity.

In order to file for divorce in California, at least one party must have lived in California for the last 6 months.  In addition, one party must have resided in the county where they plan to file the divorce for the last 3 months (California Family Code section 2320). For help determining if you meet the residency requirements to file for divorce, see

Once preliminary divorce paperwork has been filed with the Court, there is a mandatory 6-month waiting period before your divorce may become final.

In California, it is possible to conduct a do-it-yourself divorce, but if you have substantial assets, complex assets, like a business or rental property, or if you have children, there could be pitfalls. In these cases, a consultation or representation from a good divorce attorney can be beneficial.

First, the basics:

  • To get a divorce in California you must have lived in California for at least 6 months.
  • To get a divorce in Contra Costa County, you have been a resident for at least 3 months.
  • Starting a divorce begins with filing a petition that involves completing two forms.

See Our Divorce Checklist

Legal Separation

A legal separation will not operate to end a marriage or domestic partnership. Unlike divorce, or dissolution, in cases of a legal separation, the marriage or domestic partnership remains unbroken, prohibiting the parties from remarriage or entering a new domestic partnership. Legal separation is an option for couples that do not wish to divorce, but want to separate their finances and property.  The grounds for legal separation are the same as those for divorce. To file for legal separation, one party must reside in the county where the papers are filed at the time the case is started; however there is no required length of residency.


With an annulment, the court determines that a marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid. Marriages or domestic partnerships that are incestuous or bigamous are never valid. Others can be declared “void” or “voidable” because on one of the following:

  • of force, fraud, or physical or mental incapacity;
  • one of the spouses was legally too young to marry or enter a domestic partnership; or
  • one of the spouses was already married or in a domestic partnership.

More information about the grounds for an annulment, as well as time limits for filing for an annulment, are available from the California Family Code, sections 2210 et seq. Annulments are very uncommon. If you ask to have your marriage or domestic partnership annulled, you will have to go to hearing with a judge. To file for an annulment, one party must reside in the county where the papers are filed at the time the case is started. Again, there is no required length of residency.

When Should I Hire a Divorce Attorney?

 Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, it’s important for you to hire a divorce lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer will help you prepare for your case and serve your best interests and that of your family.

You should contact a divorce lawyer to represent you when:

  • a hearing is set
  • you get served with a motion
  • you file a motion

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Hire a Divorce Lawyer

 Divorce is a complicated process and not just a piece of paper.  Your future, and that of your children (if you have them with the partner you are divorcing), depends on the thought, time, energy, and detail that go into a divorce.

You want the best results from your divorce, and that can only be done when a lawyer has sufficient time to prepare for your case and meet court-imposed deadlines. Hiring a lawyer sooner rather than later allows your lawyer to

  • Review your case
  • Gather sufficient evidence, research, and documents to act in your best interest
  • Prepare for your case
  • Confer with the opposing counsel
  • Clear their calendar for your court date
  • Prepare court documents to legally represent you
  • Prepare any responsive pleadings

Avoid Delaying Your Future

Waiting too long before you hire an attorney creates even more problems for you and your future. Delays and unnecessary extensions due to your lack of planning in hiring an attorney can add stress and keep you from moving ahead to the life you want to lead.

Hiring a lawyer allows you to move on to your day-to-day life. You rest knowing someone is there to meet deadlines, file the appropriate papers, and show up in court on your behalf. The sooner you hire a lawyer to represent you, the easier the process will be.

Seeking the Legal Counsel of Mendes Weed, LLP

If you or someone you know needs the counsel of an experienced, dedicated, results-orientated divorce attorney , Mendes Weed, LLP may be able to help.

We have been assisting clients in Contra Costa County with family law matters such as divorce, child custody, child support, non-court ordered mediation, spousal support, and domestic violence restraining orders, and we may be able to help you as well.

Contact our Walnut Creek office at (925) 390-3222 or use the form below to contact us.

Disclaimer: The tips and materials provided in this email are for informational purposes only, offered as public service. No information in this email should be considered legal advice or used as a substitute for legal advice. For legal advice, you should contact an attorney directly.

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