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The Law Office of Bonnie L. Johnson 

Helping California’s families

One family at a time…


A party may be able to retain spouse’s medical insurance coverage, which would be lost with dissolution.  CAUTION:  Check with the supporting spouse’s employer before entering any legal action for separation, divorce or nullity.  Some employers do not provide insurance for spouses upon physical separation…so be careful to know your rights before you leap!


Unlike a dissolution which seeks to end a valid marriage, a nullity (annulment) proceeding is used to prove that a valid marriage never existed.   Annulments are difficult to obtain, so be sure to have sufficient evidence.
Reasons why a marriage may be invalid from the start: 
     - Mistakes in formality (e.g. license never issued)
     - Fraud
     - Incest
     - Bigamy
     - Party was under 18 or mentally incapacitated

Advantage of seeking annulment:
- A party that shows fault can potentially get larger support and attorney fees and costs awards; fault plays no role in a dissolution case.
- No minimum residence requirements.
- May be able to avoid community property characterization during property division.
- May be able to avoid spousal support and attorney fees awards.

Disadvantage of seeking annulment:
- It may be expensive to prove fault and grounds for annulment.  

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What is the difference between a dissolution, legal separation and annulment?

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A dissolution judgment legally ends the marriage, allowing both spouses to marry someone else.

CA Family Code section 2320 requires that at least one of the spouses has been a resident of California for six months and of the county in which the proceeding is filed for three months immediately preceding the filing of the petition. To get around the Family Code section 2320 six-months/three-months residence requirements, a spouse can ask for a legal separation and later amend the petition to claim dissolution once the requirements are satisfied.

No fault needs to be shown. It is enough for one party to claim irreconcilable differences.  Dissolution is the most common way to legally end a marriage.


Legal separation does not terminate marital status. Therefore, parties are not free to remarry. But, like a dissolution judgment, the court can adjudicate support, custody, and property rights.