Dissolution of Marriage: What It Means and How It Works in California

When a marriage comes to an end, it’s not only an emotional journey but also a legal one. In California, the legal process of ending a marriage is often referred to as the “dissolution of marriage.” But what exactly does this mean, and how does it differ from the more commonly known term, “divorce”?

What is Dissolution of Marriage?

In essence, dissolution of marriage is the legal term used in California for what most people know as divorce. It signifies the end of a marital union and the resolution of all marital rights and responsibilities.

Dissolution vs. Divorce: Is There a Difference?

While both terms essentially mean the end of a marriage, the terminology “dissolution” is preferred in California’s legal proceedings, emphasizing the process of resolving and dissolving the marital union.

The Process of Dissolution in California

  1. Filing the Petition: The process starts when one spouse (the petitioner) files a Petition for Dissolution with the court. This petition includes necessary details about the marriage, assets, debts, and, if applicable, children.
  2. Serving the Petition: The other spouse (the respondent) is then served with the petition and given a chance to respond.
  3. Financial Disclosures: Both parties are required to disclose financial information, ensuring that property and debts are fairly divided.
  4. Reaching an Agreement: Couples can either agree on terms (an uncontested dissolution) or require court intervention to decide on matters like property division, child custody, or spousal support (a contested dissolution).
  5. Judgment: Once all issues are resolved, a judgment is entered, legally ending the marital relationship.

Factors to Consider in a Dissolution

  • Property and Debt Division: California is a community property state, meaning assets and debts acquired during the marriage are typically divided equally.
  • Child Custody and Support: If children are involved, decisions on custody, visitation, and support are paramount. California courts prioritize the best interests of the child.
  • Spousal Support/Alimony: Depending on various factors like the length of the marriage and each spouse’s financial situation, one spouse might be required to provide financial support to the other.


The dissolution of marriage in California is a structured process that aims to fairly and amicably end a marital relationship. While the journey can be emotionally taxing, understanding the legal aspects can help in navigating it smoothly. Always consult with a legal expert when considering dissolution to ensure your rights are protected.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a licensed family law attorney regarding your specific situation. 

Are you facing a separation, divorce, child custody or child support battle in the California? Contact attorney Maya Gaziev

Maya Gaziev

Founder, Lead Attorney

Maya Gaziev, Esq., is the founder and principal attorney at SD Law Center. A distinguished trial family lawyer, Maya’s unwavering commitment to justice and her clients is at the heart of her practice.

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