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Divorce Laws in California

California has a six month waiting period for divorce, which begins when the divorce papers are served. Dissolution of a Domestic Partnership is similar, but not the same as divorce, and requires experienced legal counsel.

Residency and Jurisdiction
At least one party must have lived in the state of California for the last six months, and the county where you plan to file the divorce for the last three months. If both spouses have lived in California for at least six months but in different counties for at least three months, you can file in either county.

If you don’t meet the residency requirements you can file for separation, wait for the time to pass, and then file an "amended petition" asking the court for a divorce.

Fault or No Fault and Grounds for Divorce
California is a no fault state which accepts only two conditions for divorce:

  • Irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage
  • Incurable insanity

Division of property
California is a community property state. Property is divided in half between spouses. California has a unique way of handling degrees and licenses earned during marriage. Most states grant a percentage of the enhanced earning capacity to the other spouse. California does not do this and instead requires the spouse who acquired the degree or license to reimburse the estate for the costs of education.

Spousal Support
In determining spousal support, California law requires the courts to consider the following:

  • The length of the marriage or domestic partnership,
  • What each person needs,
  • What each person pays or can pay (including earnings and earning capacity),
  • Whether having a job would make it too hard to take care of the child(ren),
  • The age and health of both people,
  • Debts and property,
  • Whether one spouse or domestic partner helped the other get an education, training, career, or professional license,
  • Whether there was domestic violence in the marriage or domestic partnership,
  • Whether one spouse's, or domestic partner's, career was affected by unemployment, or by taking care of the children or home, and
  • The tax impact of spousal support (note: federal and state tax laws were not changed to recognize domestic partnerships.)

Divorces granted on the grounds of incurable insanity are still subject to support orders.

Child Custody and Support
Parents who cannot reach and agreement on custody and visitation are required to see a mediator. In determining the best interest of the child the courts must consider:

  • The health, safety, and welfare of the child.
  • Any history of abuse by one parent or any other person seeking custody against any of the following:
    • Any child to whom he or she is related by blood or affinity or with whom he or she has had a caretaking relationship, no matter how temporary.
    • The other parent.
    • A parent, current spouse, or cohabitant, of the parent or person seeking custody, or a person with whom the parent or person seeking custody has a dating or engagement relationship.
  • The nature and amount of contact with both parents.
  • The habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances or habitual or continual abuse of alcohol by either parent.

California uses the Income Shares Model for calculating child support.

Domestic Partnerships
Since January 1, 2005, domestic partnerships in California require dissolution much like divorce. Dissolution of a domestic partnership is different to a divorce in many ways including taxes.

If you are considering or facing divorce in California, contact an experienced California divorce attorney today.

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Disclaimer: Divorce law information contained throughout this page is intended to generally inform you about divorce law in California and introduce you to divorce lawyers throughout the U.S. The information regarding divorce and divorce law is not meant to be taken as legal advice. If you would like to speak with an experienced divorce attorney, click on the link to your state to find an experienced divorce lawyer in your area for an initial consultation.
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