Divorce in California (technically called a ‘Dissolution’) is available to any married person living in the state for the last 6 months.
A Dissolution is also necessary for those who want to terminate a registered Domestic Partnership, but residency is not a requirement to terminate Domestic Partnerships.
In very short Marriages or Domestic Partnerships, with no children and very little assets, a summary proceeding is available.
California is a ‘community property’ state, which means that all property (and all debts) that were obtained during the marriage are presumed to be ‘community’ in nature and thus are owned equally (50/50) by both parties to the union.
Legal Separation is available for anyone who:
1) Does not yet meet the 6-month residency requirement for a Dissolution, or
2) Anyone else who does not want a Divorce, but does want to divide the assets and debts as well as establish a custody and visitation order for the children.
Often a Legal Separation action is amended into a Dissolution, but it is not required.