What Are the Grounds for Divorce in California? 2024

Divorce can be an emotionally and mentally taxing time. Trying to understand all the legal nuances that come with it can be confusing. Many questions about what will happen during the divorce process will come up, such as understanding the grounds for divorce. While all divorces end in marital dissolution, none are the same. An experienced California divorce lawyer can explain the grounds for divorce in California and what that means for you.

Legal Grounds for Divorce in California

California is a “no-fault divorce” state, which means spouses can seek a divorce without having to prove that one party is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. The divorce will be granted, no matter what the opinion of the other spouse is, and without blame.

As a “no-fault divorce state,” California law outlines two legal grounds for obtaining a divorce. First is irreconcilable differences leading to the irreparable breakdown of the marriage. The second would be the permanent legal incapacity of one spouse to make decisions, so the other is filing for divorce.

First Grounds for Divorce in CA – Irreconcilable Differences

Irreconcilable differences is a broad term and includes a variety of reasons couples may seek a divorce. These are some of the most common reasons couples seek a divorce, citing irreconcilable differences:

  • Money Disagreements: Finances can cause a huge rift in marriages, whether it is a disagreement on how to spend money, lack of communication on how money was spent, or other animosities regarding finances.
  • Time Management Problems: Some couples can struggle with schedules, including childcare, work, and spending personal time together.
  • Varying Parental Styles: When a couple has children, they may not have discussed how they want to raise that child, including education, religion, and other important parental decisions.
  • Infidelity: Infidelity happens when a spouse engages in a romantic or sexual relationship with someone other than their spouse without their consent.
  • Relative or Friend Interference: While there’s a common belief that in-laws are often challenging, it’s worth noting that at times, the interference in a marriage might come from the friends or family of one spouse. This interference can lead to a breakdown in communication and amicable relations between the couple and each other’s families.
  • Growing apart: Sometimes couples just grow apart, their values change, and they decide they are no longer happy together.

Second Grounds for Divorce in CA – Permanent Legal Incapacity to Make Decisions

If a person is seeking a divorce on grounds of permanent legal incapacity, they will need proof of evidence to the court that would support the claim of the spouse’s mental condition, such as medical records, assessments from mental health professionals, or other forms of documentation that establish the length and severity of the incapacity.

Although there are two legal grounds for divorce, a majority of divorces in California are granted on a no-fault basis, citing irreconcilable differences.

Understanding Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

Regardless of whether your divorce is a no-fault or on the grounds of permanent legal incapacity, it can be a contested or uncontested divorce.

In a contested divorce, spouses do not agree on one or more key issues, such as the division of property, child custody, spousal support, or other matters. This means the case will go to court, and a judge will make decisions on the unresolved issues.

In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on all major issues related to the divorce. The couple can submit a joint petition for divorce along with a marital settlement agreement detailing the agreed-upon terms. The court will review and approve the agreement, and the divorce can be finalized without a trial.

Seeking the advice of a family law attorney can help navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and provide guidance on how to address specific circumstances.


Q: On What Grounds Can You File for Divorce in California?

A: California is a no-fault divorce state, which means that spouses seeking to divorce do not need to prove that one spouse did something wrong to justify the divorce. The main ground for divorce is “irreconcilable differences,” implying that there has been a breakdown of the marriage and there is no reasonable chance of reconciliation.

Q: What Is the 10-Year Rule for Divorce in California?

A: In general, the 10-year rule is used to determine spousal support duration. Any marriage that lasts longer than ten years is automatically considered to be a long-duration marriage, and the court has the discretion to decide the duration of permanent or long-term spousal support. A common misconception is spousal support is paid indefinitely if a couple has been married for more than ten years, which is not true.

Q: How Long Do You Have to be Married to Get Half of Everything in California?

A: There is no specific duration of marriage that automatically entitles a spouse to half of everything. Since California is a community property state, you are generally entitled to half of the community property upon divorce, which includes income, assets, and debts.

Q: Can I Get a Divorce if my Spouse Doesn’t Agree in California?

A: Yes, it is possible to get a divorce in California, even if one spouse doesn’t want the marriage to dissolve. However, this might cause the divorce to become contested, and the court may need to make decisions on issues that the couple cannot resolve themselves.

Q: Why Would a Divorce be Denied in California?

A: Typically, divorces are not denied unless there are specific legal reasons that prevent the court from granting the divorce. This could include failure to meet residency requirements, inability to prove irreconcilable differences or the lack of grounds, failure to serve or notify the other spouse, fraud, or perjury. Each case is different, and legal outcomes can vary based on unique details.

Contact Experienced Divorce Lawyers in California

Regardless of the challenges you may be facing during a marital breakup, it is important to have a dedicated divorce attorney advocating for your interests, protecting your rights, and guiding you through all the available options. Contact us today at Moranda Law Firm, APC, to get the help you need.

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