In California, there are two main types of divorce: no-fault and fault-based. For no-fault divorce, the only ground for divorce is “irreconcilable differences,” meaning that the marriage cannot be saved and there are irreparable breakdowns in the marriage. On the other hand, fault-based divorce requires one party to prove that the other spouse committed an act that caused the divorce. Here are the grounds for fault-based divorce in California:
- Adultery: This ground for divorce requires one party to prove that the other spouse engaged in extramarital sexual intercourse. Evidence of the affair, such as photographs, emails, or witness testimony, is necessary to prove this ground. According to California Family Code § 2336, “an act of sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not the spouse constitutes adultery.”
- Extreme cruelty: This ground for divorce includes physical or emotional abuse, such as domestic violence, threats, harassment, or other behaviors that cause the other spouse to fear for their safety. Proof of the abuse, such as police reports, medical records, or witness testimony, is necessary to prove this ground. According to California Family Code § 2337, “extreme cruelty is the intentional or reckless infliction of bodily or mental suffering upon one’s spouse.”
- Desertion: This ground for divorce requires one party to prove that the other spouse abandoned them without their consent and with the intent to end the marriage. The abandonment must have lasted for at least one year. Proof of the desertion, such as evidence of the other spouse’s absence or lack of communication, is necessary to prove this ground. According to California Family Code § 2338, “desertion is the willful abandonment of a spouse without just cause or excuse.”
- Long-term drug or alcohol addiction: This ground for divorce requires one party to prove that the other spouse has a long-term addiction to drugs or alcohol that has caused the breakdown of the marriage. Evidence of the addiction, such as medical records, police reports, or testimony from addiction specialists, is necessary to prove this ground. According to California Family Code § 2339, “habitual intemperance is the habitual use of drugs or alcohol to the extent that it makes the married life of the other spouse intolerable.”
- Insanity: This ground for divorce requires one party to prove that the other spouse has been declared legally insane for at least five years, or that they have been institutionalized for at least three years for mental illness. Evidence of the insanity, such as medical records, court orders, or testimony from mental health professionals, is necessary to prove this ground. According to California Family Code § 2342, “incurable insanity is the condition existing when an insane spouse has been confined in a mental hospital or institution for at least three years immediately preceding the commencement of an action for dissolution of marriage.”
It’s important to note that proving fault in a divorce case can be difficult and time-consuming. For this reason, many couples opt for no-fault divorce instead. Additionally, even if fault is proven, it may not have a significant impact on the final divorce settlement, as California is a community property state, meaning that marital property is generally divided equally between the parties regardless of fault.
Ernest Pritchard is a former family law practitioner who became a full-time writer to share his knowledge and guidance regarding divorce and relationships with others. He advocates for incorporating love into life and encourages couples to tackle challenges as a team. For those seeking a divorce, Ernest offers his recommendations and guidance through helpful articles and divorce checklists. His works have been featured in well-known relationship blogs such as Marriage.com and DivorceMag.