No Golden Anniversary—The Golden Bachelor’s star couple “dissolved” their marriage after barely five months. What are the options for ending a very short marriage in California?

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In 2023, the reality TV series The Bachelor tried a new twist on the two-decade-old franchise:

Gerry Turner, a dashing 72-year-old widower, was looking for a second chance at love after losing the wife he’d been with since high school. On the show, he dated more than 20 dazzling mature women but finally proposed to 70-year-old Theresa Nist, who had also lost a spouse.

The couple tied the knot on January 4th in a glitzy televised wedding—then shocked fans by announcing their split on April 12th on Good Morning America.

Turner told GMA, “Theresa and I have had a number of heart-to-heart conversations, and we’ve looked closely at our situation, our living situation, so forth and — and we’ve kind of come to the conclusion mutually that it’s probably time for us to dissolve our marriage.”

After all the hoopla, the couple quickly decided to call it quits, at least partly because of their devotion to their kids and grandkids; they couldn’t find a satisfactory place to live, with her family in New Jersey and his in Indiana.

By mid-June, the divorce was finalized. At 100 days, their marriage was the shortest in The Bachelor’s history. Like much of reality TV, the whirlwind wedding and subsequent split seemed to have a veneer of the unreal.

Some viewers thought the whole show was a sham or just a bit of an eye-roller. Others ate it up—episodes averaged nearly 10 million viewers. Some of that audience are fans of the entire Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise. Others tuned in because this reboot (rightly) depicted people in their 60s and 70s as interesting, intelligent, funny, attractive, active, sexy, adventurous, and worthy of love and romance. This very non-fairytale ending struck a nerve, raising questions about remarriage, gray divorce, and simple logistics—how can you possibly get married, separated, and divorced within five months?

What if you quickly realize you’ve made a mistake and married the wrong person? It’s an unworkable situation. If, as a couple, there’s no hope you’ll never reach your golden anniversary (50th) or maybe even your paper one (1st), what are your options for ending a very short-lived marriage?

There are three possibilities in California: traditional divorce, annulment, or summary dissolution. However, it’s essential to understand that the proper process for your particular situation will depend on several factors.

Annulment. When things unravel quickly, it’s normal to have regrets, wish you hadn’t walked down the aisle, or feel like it was not a “real” marriage. But it’s a common misperception that a short marriage can be annulled. Some people desire an annulment for religious reasons; the law and the family court only deal with civil annulment; the church can only grant a religious annulment. To get an annulment in California, you must meet very specific qualifications. You should also know that annulments are quite rare as few people can meet the statutory requirements for one.

Traditional divorce. In some ways, the length of the marriage doesn’t make much difference—the legal process and the main issues (property division, support, custody) are the same whether you’ve been married for one year or 50.

In a no-fault state like California, filing for divorce due to irreconcilable differences is pretty straightforward and (other than the mandatory six-month waiting period) can move reasonably fast—especially if it is uncontested and there isn’t a lot to disentangle, which may be the case if you haven’t been married very long. For example, California is a community property state, meaning that everything you acquired during the marriage belongs equally to both of you and will be divided 50/50 in divorce. You may not have acquired many assets together in a short marriage, leaving less to divide.

On the other hand, the length of the marriage can significantly impact the amount of spousal support awarded, if any.

Summary dissolution. This is how the Golden Couple ended their brief union. On June 14th, USA Today reported that an Indiana judge had “signed off on a summary decree of dissolution of marriage and approved their marital settlement agreement, which detailed how the former couple’s property — including real estate, furnishings, personal belongings, and cars — and their respective finances should be divided.”

California Law also provides for summary dissolution—a somewhat simplified and streamlined divorce process, available to couples that have been married less than five years. There are additional qualifications for summary dissolution, including:

  • At least one spouse must have resided in California for at least six months, and at least three months in the specific county where the dissolution is being filed
  • Both parties agree to the dissolution on the basis of irreconcilable differences
  • The spouses must agree on asset division
  • The parties must file a Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution and have prepared a property settlement agreement
  • There can be no children in the marriage
  • The couple must have few assets or liabilities to be divided (community property totals less than $25,000, excluding cars; neither party may have accrued more than $4000 in debt during the marriage, excluding car loans, etc.)
  • Both spouses agree that they will not pursue spousal support

A summary dissolution is typically less expensive, involves less paperwork, moves more rapidly, and does not require a court appearance; however, there is still a six-month waiting period in California (compared to only 60 days in Indiana).

If you believe summary dissolution might be a good option for ending your short-lived marriage, working with a qualified divorce attorney is essential. The skilled and caring family lawyers at SFLG can help you find and navigate the right divorce process for your circumstances.

by Debra Schoenberg


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