California: Grounds for Divorce in a No-Fault Divorce State

952313_gavel.jpgAs reported in The San Francisco Chronicle, retired San Francisco judge Isabella Horton Grant died of cancer on Saturday at age 87.

Judge Grant made many contributions to family law, including her participation in the drafting and passage of California’s no-fault divorce rule, which went into effect January 1, 1970 with the enactment of the Family Law Act of 1969.

Prior to the enactment of California’s no-fault divorce rule, the moving party in a divorce was a plaintiff who charged the other spouse, as a defendant, with being “at fault” for the divorce for reasons such as adultery, abuse, etc.

With no-fault divorce, a judgment of dissolution of marriage may be granted simply based on irreconcilable differences. Family Code section 2310. Irreconcilable differences are defined by Family Code section 2311 as “those grounds which are determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved”.

Just what grounds will a court determine to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved? To meet the statutory requirements, there must exist “substantial marital problems which have so impaired the marriage relationship that the legitimate objects of matrimony have been destroyed and as to which there is no reasonable possibility of elimination, correction or resolution.” In Marriage of Walton (1972) 28 CA3d 108, 118.

As a practical matter, in my experience as a San Diego divorce attorney, I have never had a court deny a request to dissolve a marriage based on irreconcilable differences.