A Divorce By Any Other Name
“Divorce” is an old term, that is nevertheless still used by many people, in reference to a legal action that is designed to end a marriage. The presently correct term is “Dissolution of Marriage.”
Time was, that “Divorce” was just like any other lawsuit. There was a “Plaintiff”, who would commence a “Lawsuit”, by the filing of a “Complaint,” in the Superior Court; wherein it would be alleged, that another person, the “Defendant”, had done something wrong and illegal; and whereby the other person (the “Plaintiff”) had been injured; and to the extent that a Court should award compensatory relief (“Damages”) to the injured person; which in the case of a Marital Complaint, would include the undoing of the marriage, and the awarding of money damages, for support, or “Alimony,” as it was then called.
Who’s Fault Is It Really?
To make an otherwise longer story shorter, in and about 1970, the California Legislature decided it was improper to continue to try to find “fault” in such a situation, when more likely than not, there was no particular “fault,” but only the (sometimes) unfortunate fact, that one or both persons in the marital relationship, just didn’t want to do it any more. So, we got “no-fault” divorce; or as it is properly called, “Dissolution of Marriage.” The “Complaint” is now called a “Petition;” and the one filing it, is called a “Petitioner;” and the other party is called a “Respondent.” It will be necessary for the Petitioner to legally “Serve” the Respondent, with the Petition, and a “Summons,” and in the same manner as formally required, when the Plaintiff had to serve the Complaint for Divorce, on the Defendant. (See: “Service of Process, Summons and Subpoena”).
These days, someone who is over the age of 18, and who is not the Petitioner, must personally deliver the Petition to the Respondent. The Respondent will then have an opportunity to file a “Response” to the Petition, that will either admit or deny the “allegations” of the Petition. The items of “Allegation” to which the parties agree, will be found to be true by the Court; and a “Final Judgment” will ultimately be based on those agreements. The Parties (Petitioner and Respondent) will then proceed to litigate (continue to press their contentions in and with the Court), perhaps even to a Trial, and with further regard to the remaining things upon which they don’t agree. Alimony is now called “Spousal Support,” and the means for determining the propriety and amount of the support, is based on “need and ability to pay,” and not on fault.
In fact, generally, evidence of the bad acts or other such behavior of one party, is just simply not admissible. Now there are some exceptions to this last stated, but basically, all the Court will be interested in, is restoring the parties to the status of single persons (as distinct from married persons); the identification and evaluation of their “Community Property” (so it can be divided equally between them); and if there are children, where and with whom will the children reside, or otherwise be, at any particular time of a given day. The questions of Child and Spousal Support will also be addressed, if appropriate.