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When is a divorce not a divorce?

Marriage may be considered to be a state of mind to some people; however, it is more complex than that in legal terms. A couple may live together as though they are married without going through a legally binding ceremony -- but in that instance, there can be no divorce. Although many people choose not to go through a legal ceremony, it is the case that marriage nowadays is defined as a legally binding contract. A number of states, including California, have no-fault divorce, but even then things are not always straightforward.

A couple may separate, but a legal separation may need to fulfill certain criteria. There are differences between states with regard to the requirements of separation leading up to a divorce. There may also be requirements relating to residency before one can lodge divorce proceedings. Under certain circumstances, a marriage may be dissolved by annulment instead of divorce; however, the times in which this is appropriate are rare.

An uncooperative spouse can decide to take measures to delay the smooth progress of the divorce once it has begun. This may be due to numerous factors, including a desire to control or manipulate. A spouse who has escaped an abusive marriage may be more likely to find himself or herself in this situation, but in California, a no-fault divorce cannot be contested.

Whatever one's circumstances, it is advisable to seek appropriate advice and guidance if one is considering divorce. There are so many variable factors that can affect one's future, from ongoing spousal support to the division of marital assets. It is particularly important to ensure that one's children will be properly provided for in any financial settlements.

Source: The Huffington Post, "An Overview of the Legal Grounds for Annulment, Separation, and Divorce", Brad Reid, June 16, 2015

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