What are My Divorce Options if I cannot Get an Annulment?

In California, there are three ways to effectively end a marriage or domestic partnership; divorce, legal separation or annulment. Some would be considered a quick divorce, and some options are so restrictive few couples qualify. Here is a guide to the divorce options in California.


Annulment is a legal declaration by the court that a marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid. Because the court sees the marriage or domestic partnership as not valid, after the annulment process, it is as if the marriage or domestic partnership never occurred. Because of the unique qualities and remedies available for annulments, it is the most restrictive and least inclusive process for marriage or domestic partnership dissolution.

In order to qualify for annulment, you must have one of the following situations apply:

  • Marriage between two close blood relatives (incest)
  • A spouse is already married or in a domestic partnership (bigamy)
  • One spouse was under 18 at the time of marriage
  • Evidence of force or fraud used to coerce a spouse into marriage
  • A spouse was of unsound mind or physically incapable of consummating the relationship


Divorce results in a full dissolution of marriage or domestic partnership and afterwards each spouse or domestic partner becomes single and legally able to re-marry. The divorce process can be as little as six months, or take much longer. Under California law, no marriage or domestic partnership may be dissolved any sooner than six months, so this is the quickest time in which a divorce can be achieved. Of course, the divorce will take longer if the spouses have disputes over child support, custody and/or visitation rights, spousal support, division of property and who is responsible for debts incurred within the marriage.

There is also a streamlined process called summary dissolution available to those who have been married or in a registered domestic partnership for less than five years. The requirements necessary to qualify for summary dissolution are strict and vary for marriage and domestic partnerships. Summary dissolution is another form of divorce (not separation).

Legal Separation

Legal separation is not divorce and does not dissolve the marriage or domestic partnership. It is an option available to those who can’t or do not want to get divorced. However, it does require court approval to be valid. At the end of a legal separation proceeding, both spouses are still considered married and cannot legally marry anyone else. The process for legal separation is very similar to divorce, only that it ends in separation and not dissolution of marriage. Here are some of the best reasons people go through legal separation instead of divorce or annulment:

  • The couple does not want to divorce, but also does not want to live together and wants the court to decide issues of money, property and parenting
  • The couple does not want a divorce for religious reasons, but wants to be legally separated for personal reasons
  • The couple does not want to divorce for financial or other personal reasons (i.e. to keep a spouse on a health insurance plan or to keep certain benefits received during the marriage)


If you are contemplating a divorce in California, contact the experts at Gastelum Law today.