The Court can grant a Judgment of Dissolution, Legal Separation, or Nullity.
A Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage dissolves the marriage, restoring the parties to the status of a single person, and resolves all custody, property, and support issues.
A Judgment of Legal Separation resolves all custody, property, and support issues, just like a Judgment of Dissolution, but at the end of that process, the parties are still married to each other.
The grounds to obtain a Judgment of Dissolution or Legal Separation are “irreconcilable differences” which has caused a breakdown in the marriage which is beyond repair, or “incurable insanity”. Because California is a “no fault” state, all that is required in a Judgment of Dissolution is for one party to say that the marriage is broken beyond repair, but to obtain a Judgment of Legal Separation, both parties must agree that is what they want.
A Judgment of Nullity has the effect of legally erasing the marriage, as if it never occurred, and is granted when a marriage is “void” (because the marriage was bigamous or incestuous), or “voidable” (because a party lacked capacity, as when it involves a minor; or marriage was entered into because someone mistakenly believed the first spouse was dead; of if a party had an unsound mind; or in cases of fraud, force, or physical incapacity).