Are There Different Types of Divorces?

There are technically different types of divorce. In addition to a “regular” dissolution of marriage (the legal term for divorce), there is a “summary” dissolution. A summary dissolution is a simple, faster process that applies to a short-term marriage.

In addition to divorce, there are other methods to ending a marriage or marital-type relationship. The law and legal procedures will vary based on the type of case. Below you will find some general information to introduce you to these legal options in California. Contact us, and we will help you determine the best approach for your individual situation.


Dissolution of Marriage. This is the legal term for “divorce.”It means the marriage is dissolved, no longer legally valid. In California, all dissolutions are “no-fault” divorces, which simply means that a person isn’t required to prove the other person is at fault in order to get a divorce. There are two legal bases for being granted a divorce. The most common reason is “irreconcilable differences.” The other basis for divorce in California is “permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.”

There are many forms to complete and procedural rules to follow before a marriage is dissolved. Some of the facets of a divorce include disclosing assets and income, dividing marital property, determining child custody and visitation, child support, and spousal support. Each facet can drag on if parties disagree, don’t cooperate, or drag their feet. Some of this can be avoided if the parties agree to draft their own settlement agreement that accords with state guidelines and then submit it to the court.

A divorce will not be final for at least six months from the initial filing. Therefore, even if you agree to all issues and complete all of the paperwork in less than 6 months, your divorce will not be final until six months after your initial filing date.

Summary Dissolution. This is a divorce or dissolving of the marriage like a “regular” divorce but simpler and quicker and, therefore, less expensive than a typical divorce. Specific circumstances qualify a couple for a summary dissolution. A summary dissolution is available to a couple who has been married less than five years, has no children of the marriage, and has community assets under $41,000 and community debts under $6,000. (See Can We Get a Quick and Easy Divorce?)


In addition to divorce, there are other means to end your marital or marital-type relationship. These apply when you technically are not married, are registered as domestic partners, or wish to legally separate but not terminate the marriage.

Annulment. An annulment is technically not a divorce but rather a declaration that the marriage is invalid or void (i.e., never was valid). To have your marriage declared invalid, you must be able to prove that one or more specific factors were present at the time of the marriage. These factors include fraud, unsound mind, and minority age of the filing party. A marriage that is incestuous or bigamous is never legally valid.

Termination of Domestic Partnership. A California registered domestic partnership can be terminated by filing a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State if certain conditions apply. If conditions cannot be met, the domestic partnership must be terminated through proceedings in Superior Court.

Legal Separation. Although this is not a divorce, this option requires the same documents and procedures as a divorce. You are still legally married and are not free to marry someone else, but you can divide marital property, obtain child custody orders, and child and spousal support orders. Some people choose a legal separation rather than a divorce for financial reasons (such as retention of military or healthcare benefits) or for personal or religious reasons. Additionally, a legal separation does not have the same requirements for someone to live in the state or county for a certain period of time, so property and custody matters can be resolved even if someone does not yet qualify to file for a divorce. A legal separation can be changed into a divorce case by either party if it would otherwise qualify to be filed as one.


At Shoreline Legal Group, our goal is to help clients complete an efficient and affordable divorce, legal separation, or annulment. We provide assistance when you need it. Our limited scope services allow you to choose when to pay for attorney services and when to handle things on your own. Serving the greater Long Beach, CA area.