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Divorce is a court process to legally end a marriage. In California, divorce is called “dissolution of marriage” and court papers use the term dissolution of marriage instead of divorce. In addition to ending the marriage, the court also has the authority to divide certain property and debts of the spouses and in some cases to order one spouse to pay support (alimony) to the other. If children are involved, the court also can decide custody, parenting time (formerly called visitation) and child support issues.
Petitioner and Respondent
In any legal case, the people involved are referred to by words that describe their role in the case. In a divorce case, the person who starts the court case by filing the Petition is called the “Petitioner.” The other spouse is called the “Respondent” because that spouse can file a paper answering the Petition that is called a “Response.”
No Fault Divorce Defined
Unlike some other states, for most marriages California does not require that one of the spouses prove blame or responsibility in order to end the marriage. Under California law, the only question for the court is whether the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” meaning that there is no reasonable chance that the spouses want to keep the marriage together.