Are There Alternatives to a Divorce?

Considering divorce? Evaluate your options.

In California, there are three main ways to end a marriage: divorce, legal separation, and annulment. It is not necessary for both spouses to agree on ending the marriage. Either spouse can agree to end the marriage, and the other spouse or partner has no power to stop the process by refusing to participate in the divorce case. If a spouse or domestic partner refuses to participate in the divorce case, the other spouse/partner will still be able to get what is called a "default" judgment and the divorce will become finalized. There are alternatives to getting a standard divorce, some of which are discussed below.

  1. What is an uncontested divorce? When both spouses agree on the fact that the marriage is going to end and when they come to a mutually satisfying agreement regarding the final divorce settlement, the divorce is said to be uncontested. Uncontested divorces are less expensive than contested divorces and they move through the courts much faster. In divorce cases where there are children or marital property, it is wise to seek the advice of a qualified divorce attorney.
  2. What is a summary dissolution? Some couples that have been married for less than 5 years can get a "summary dissolution" providing they meet the requirements. A summary dissolution is a faster and easier way to end your marriage than a regular divorce. Keep in mind that a summary dissolution is a divorce, not a legal separation.
  3. What is an annulment? An annulment or "nullity of marriage" is when a court says that a marriage is not legally valid. After an annulment, it's as if the marriage never occurred because it was never legal. A marriage isn't legal when it is incestuous, bigamous, if one of the parties was under 18, if either party was already legally married to someone else, if there was fraud, if either party was of unsound mind, or if one of the parties was forced into the marriage.
  4. What is a legal separation? A legal separation is not the same as a divorce. Once you are legally separated from your spouse, you cannot remarry someone else. A legal separation is suitable for couples who do not want to obtain a divorce but who want to live apart. A legal separation allows couples to decide on money, property and parenting issues while living apart. Often times couples decide on a legal separation instead of a divorce because of religious or insurance reasons.
  5. Should I consider a trial separation? A trial separation may allow the spouse who wants to get a divorce experience what it's like to be separated without making a final decision to get a divorce. The main advantage of a trial separation is that it is easily reversible. However, even a trial separation can involve just as much negotiation as an actual divorce when it comes to spousal support, child support, child custody and visitation, property and debt division.
  6. How can mediation help me? Divorce mediation is an excellent alternative to fighting in court with your spouse and your respective attorneys. Instead of going to court, the parties agree on using mediation to work with a neutral third party (mediator) to negotiate contentious issues concerning child custody, spousal support, the division of assets and debts etc.
  7. What if I choose to do nothing? This may sound strange but some couples choose to do nothing and remain in an unhappy and unsatisfying marriage. Many couples actually decide to stay in a so-called "parallel marriage," instead of dealing with the consequences of divorce. Spouses decide to stay in unhappy marriages for many different reasons, some of which have to do with finances, insurance, young children or their religious beliefs.

Contact a Mission Viejo Divorce Lawyer

If you are experiencing marital discord, it's important to become fully aware of your divorce options and to learn about any possible alternatives. Becoming knowledgeable about your options is vital to achieving a successful outcome with your marital issues, this way you can make informed decisions about how to resolve the problems that you presently face.

At The Hunter Law Group, attorney Daniel C. Hunter IV has over 13 years of experience helping individuals with annulments, legal separations, and divorce. He is here to listen to your situation and to help you determine which course of action would benefit you the most. Please don't hesitate to contact our office for professional guidance with your divorce matters.

Hear what our satisfied clients have to say by visiting our testimonials page!