Divorce FAQ

What Are Valid Grounds for Divorce in California?

California has a no-fault or “irreconcilable differences” basis for divorce. This basically allows either husband or wife to file for divorce if either one believes that the marriage has broken down, even if the other party does not desire a divorce. This allows the parties to focus on issues such as child custody and visitation, spousal or child support, and property division, instead of proving that one party is at fault for causing the divorce.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce?

As long as one party has been a resident of California for six continuous months, and a resident of the county in which the divorce proceeding is filed for three continuous months prior to filing, California requires a time period of at least six months before a divorce can be finalized.

How Are Assets Divided?

Because California is a community property state, all assets and liabilities acquired during marriage are presumed to be community property and are split evenly between the parties. Nevertheless, the court will often divide property in a manner which one party does not approve of, particularly if separate property is involved. This is why it is important to have representation that can present your arguments and desires regarding property division to the court.

Who Will Get Custody of the Children?

California uses the standard of “the best interests of the children” in order to determine who the primary caregiver will be. This often results in both parents having some custody of the minor children, and in some cases, joint custody. If custody and visitation becomes an issue between the parents, mediation is often employed in order to reach agreement between the parties. If no agreement is reached, the court can impose the recommendation of a mediator, or decide upon a different solution based upon “the best interests of the children”. In some instances, litigation may be required in order to reach a solution to intractable differences.

How Are Spousal Support and Child Support Determined?

Spousal support is determined on a case by case basis, based upon the following principals:

  • Earnings capacity of the parties
  • Contributions each party has made to the marriage, including one party’s help in supporting the other while getting an education or maintaining a career
  • Supporting party’s assets and ability to pay support
  • The assets and separate property of each party
  • How long the marriage has lasted
  • The ability of both parties to achieve gainful employment
  • The education and work experience of the parties
  • The relative ages of the parties
  • Standards of living during marriage
  • The goal that the supported party become self-sustaining within a reasonable period of time
  • The balance of the hardships to both parties

These factors make clear that the court has a wide range of discretion when awarding spousal support.

Child support is based upon guidelines established to calculate the appropriate amount of support in a specific instance. Factors which are used in this calculation include the income and expenses of both parties and the amount of time which the children spend with each parent.

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