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California Divorce Law


When a couple has decided to file for divorce, California divorce law can greatly affect the outcome of the divorce. California divorce laws cover alimony, property distribution, child support and custody. Divorce laws are complex, so if you have questions or want legal advice, talk to a local divorce lawyer near you in California.

For your convenience, the chart below summarizes a few of the key concepts of California's divorce laws:

California State Laws

  • Fault/No Fault: No-Fault
  • Property Distribution: Community
  • ADR Available: Yes
  • Parenting Plan Required: No

California Grounds for Divorce

California divorce law allows couples to file for divorce under no fault grounds.

A no fault divorce will be granted by the divorce court without one spouse proving that a wrong doing was committed by the other spouse.

In California the divorce court will grant divorce or legal separation under either of the following grounds, which are usually pleaded generally:

  • Irreconcilable differences, causing a breakdown of the marriage that is beyond repair
  • Incurable insanity
When filing for divorce in California, the couple must meet the California residency requirement.

Learn what to include in your divorce petition when filing for divorce with help from a local divorce lawyer. Make sure you meet all of California's divorce requirements to help your divorce go as smoothly and quickly as possible.

California Residency Requirements

Before filing for divorce, one spouse must meet the California residency requirement.

To meet the residency requirements, one spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months. One spouse must also have lived in the county where the divorce petition is being filed for at least three months.

Establishing residency in a state depends on the state divorce laws and requirements.

A local divorce lawyer can further explain what you will need to do to establish residency in California and other requirements you will need to meet during the divorce process, such as California divorce waiting periods.

California Divorce Waiting Period

During the divorce process, most states have divorce waiting periods to make sure that there isn't the possibility of reconciliation between the couple.

Some state divorce laws may also set remarriage waiting periods, requiring one or both spouses to wait a certain amount of time after the divorce is finalized to remarry.

Under California divorce law, there isn't a divorce waiting period before filing for divorce - as long as one spouse meets the California residency requirements. California requires you wait six months after filing the divorce petition before proceeding with the rest of divorce.

Once the divorce is finalized, neither spouse has to wait before remarrying.

California Property Division

After filing divorce, the California divorce court needs to determine property distribution.

California follows community property law, which defines all marital property and marital debt as anything acquired from the date of the marriage until the cut-off date. Marital or community property and debt are split equally by the divorce court if the spouses aren't able to reach a property division agreement.

Under California divorce laws, property distribution for a divorce or legal separation considers all property acquired by the couple during the marriage in joint form. This presumption can be challenged by either spouse, but rebutting spouse has a burden of proof:

  • A statement in the deed or other documentary evidence of title that shows the acquired property is not marital property
  • Proof the couple made a written agreement that the property is separate, such as in a postnuptial agreement

California Alimony

If a couple is unable to come to an agreement about alimony when filling for divorce, the California divorce court will determine an alimony award by the circumstances of the divorce.

Alimony may also be referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance.

Some of the factors set by state divorce laws when determining an alimony award, include:

  • Each spouse's earning potential
  • Establish standard of living during the marriage
  • Length of marriage
  • Age and health of each spouse
  • Any tax consequences
  • Assets and property of each spouse
  • Balance of debt between spouses
  • Supporting spouse's assets and ability to pay support
  • How much the supported party contributed to the other party's education or career
  • Ability for supported spouse to find employment without interfering with best interest of the child
  • History of domestic violence
  • Goal to help the supported party become self-supporting through rehabilitative alimony

California Child Custody

After filing divorce, the couple will need to figure out child custody.

If it's possible, the parents can work together and negotiate a parenting plan with their divorce lawyers; however, if child custody is left up to the California divorce court to determine, state divorce laws outline the following factors for the court to consider:

  • Health, safety and welfare of the child
  • Any history of domestic violence by the parent seeking custody against:
    • The other parent
    • Any related child or child the parent has established a caretaker relationship
    • A parent, current spouse, cohabitant or significant other
  • Amount of time spent with the child and nature of the contact
  • Habitual or continual use of alcohol or drugs

Typically divorce courts like to assign joint child custody so the child can continue a relationship with both parents, but the most important issue in determining child custody is what's in the best interest of the child.

California Grandparent Visitation

Most state divorce laws don't grant automatic grandparent visitation rights when couples are filing divorce; however, it's now possible to petition for visitation rights for grandparents in many states.

In California, the parents and grandparents of a deceased parent can be eligible for child visitation if it's in the best interest of the child. There are some exceptions to child visitation law, such as:

  • The parents must be divorced or living separately on a permanent or indefinite basis
  • One parent has been absent for more than a month and the other parent doesn't know his or her whereabouts
  • A parent must join in the petition with the grandparents or the child doesn't live with either parent
  • Divorce court finds there is a preexisting relationship between the grandparents and grandchild that visitation is in the best interest of the child
  • The divorce court must balance the best interest of the child in having visitation with the parents' right to exercise parental authority

California law also states that when a child has been adopted, the natural grandparents may still get visitation rights.

Grandparent visitation rights are determined by the circumstances of the divorce, and there are many exceptions to the rule. A local California divorce lawyer can help you understand California divorce law and how it will affect your child visitation rights.

California Child Support

California divorce laws can help protect children when the parents file for divorce.

Divorce courts assign child support to make sure the children are financially provided for by both parents after the divorce.

To calculate child support, California divorce laws have the courts estimate the amount of support that would have been available to the child if the parents had remained together. The amount is divided proportionally by the income of each parent.

Either parent may be ordered to pay child support to provide for the support, maintenance and education of the child. California has set a minimum amount determined by official forms that is mandatory to support the child, unless there's a reasonable child support agreement setting a different amount and includes:

  • Both parent's acknowledgment of their child support rights
  • The child support amount is agreed to without coercion or duress
  • The child's needs will be adequately met
  • A right to child support hasn't been assigned to the county and no public assistance is pending
  • Medical insurance coverage for the child if available at a reasonable cost

California Child Support Enforcement

If parents don't pay the California child support amount ordered by the divorce court, they may face penalties that help the state collect unpaid child support.

Some child support enforcement tactics the California divorce courts use, include:

  • Credit reporting
  • Passport denial
  • Property liens
  • State licensing match system
  • Interception of
    • Bank accounts
    • Rental income
    • Royalties
    • Dividends
    • Income tax refund
    • Sales and use tax
    • Disability Insurance benefit
    • Worker's Compensation
    • Social Security benefits

Please understand that this information is provided for illustration purposes only and is not legal advice. For more information about California divorce law or your divorce options, connect with a local California divorce lawyer by calling 877-349-1310 or filling out a California divorce case review form.

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