Divorce Law

Give Yourself the Upper Hand: Know California Divorce Laws

Are you considering a divorce in California? Before you get in over your head, make sure you understand your rights and options. What you don’t know can hurt you.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in California

In order to get a divorce in California:

  • Either you or your spouse must be a resident of California for at least 6 months prior to filing for divorce.
  • Either you or your spouse must be a resident of the filing county for at least 3 months prior to filing for divorce.

If the party seeking divorce is a same-sex couple, these residency requirements do not have to be met if:

  • The marriage was entered in California
  • Neither party resides in a jurisdiction which will dissolve the marriage

    divorce law california

Grounds for Divorce in California

Acceptable grounds for divorce in California include:

  • Irreconcilable differences – These grounds for divorce must be determined by the court to be substantial reasons to discontinue and dissolve the marriage.
  • Incurable insanity – It must be proven by medical and/or psychiatric testimony that the insane spouse was insane at the time of filing, and still is incurably insane.

Distribution of Marital Property (Distribution of Assets)

California is a community property state, which means that all property which was acquired during the marriage is divided 50/50 between the parties by the court, unless agreed upon otherwise by the divorcing spouses.

This does not include the division of separate property, which is property that was:

  • Owned by the person before marriage
  • Gifted or bequeathed
  • As well as any profits which have been gained from the property in this section

Division of Debt

Just as marital property is divided, debts are divided as well, in accordance with the following guidelines:

  • Debts incurred by either spouse before the date of marriage will not be divided.
  • Debts incurred after the date of marriage but before the date of separation will be divided.
  • Debts incurred after the date of separation but before the date of dissolution will be subject to the following:
  1. oIf the debt was incurred for the common necessities of the spouse or children to which child support may be granted, the debt will be divided.
  2. oDebts which are incurred for non-necessary items will not be divided.

Spousal Support in California

Spousal support may be granted for a number of reasons. When determining spousal support, the court will examine the ability of the spouse seeking support to maintain the same standard of living established during the marriage, and will consider the following:

  • The spouse’s ability to gain self-supporting employment
  • The effect on the spouse’s current income capacity due to periods of unemployment or discontinuation of training in order to devote time to domestic duties
  • The extent to which the spouse contributed to the supporting spouse’s education, training, or income potential
  • The goal that the spouse will become self-supporting within a pre-determined amount of time
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to pay alimony
  • The needs of each spouse, based upon the standard of living which was established during the marriage
  • The assets and obligations of each spouse
  • The length of the marriage
  • The ability of the spouse to be employed without negatively affecting the dependent children
  • The age of the spouses
  • The health of the spouses
  • Any documented history of domestic violence within the marriage
  • The tax consequences to each spouse
  • The balance of hardships to each spouse

Child Support & Custody in California

Both parents share an equal responsibility in the support of minor children until the child reaches 19 years old or completes the 12th grade, whichever comes first. Both parents also have a duty to support any child who is disabled and is unable to earn a living without necessary means.

Child custody in California is determined by a number of factors. There is neither a preference nor presumption as to which party will be awarded custody of the child or children. Instead, the court will examine the situation and decide whether joint or sole custody is beneficial to the child, as well as determine a parenting plan which is in the child’s best interests.

In order to determine the best possible living arrangements for this child or children, the court will take the following into consideration:

  • The health, safety and wellbeing of the child
  • Any type of abuse by a parent seeking custody to
  1. othe child
  2. oany other dependent children
  3. othe spouse
  4. oany previous spouses or partners
  • Any illegal use of controlled substances or alcohol by each parent seeking custody
  • The amount of time and quality of time spent with each parent