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California Divorce Laws

The state of California has unique divorce laws for people who wish to terminate their marriage.

We are providing the following divorce laws in California as a reference guide to help you while you are doing your own divorce.

Residency Requirements: In order to file for a Dissolution of Marriage in California, you or your spouse must meet the strict residency requirements. These requirements permit the court to have jurisdiction of your case, resulting in allowing you to use their judicial system. These requirements are only a concern for spouses who have recently relocated or plan to relocate in the near future. They are as follows:

A judgment of dissolution of marriage may not be entered unless one of the parties to the marriage has been a resident of this state for six months and of the county in which the proceeding is filed for three months next preceding the filing of the petition.

For the purpose of a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, the husband and wife each may have a separate domicile or residence depending upon proof of the fact and not upon legal presumptions.

The Dissolution of Marriage is typically filed with in county in which the filing spouse lives. (California Code - Sections: 297, 298, 2320, 2339)

No-Fault Grounds: Most uncontested Dissolution of Marriage cases are filed according to a "no-fault" ground. We are using the term "no-fault" in a generic fashion by labeling all grounds that do not actually declare a "fault" as "no-fault". In the state of California the "no-fault" grounds are as follows:

Dissolution of the marriage or legal separation of the parties may be based on either of the following grounds, which shall be pleaded generally: (a) Irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. (California Code - Sections: 2310)

Filing Party Name: The Petitioner. This is the spouse who is recognized as the initiator of the Dissolution of Marriage and is the one who actually files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the county court.

Non-Filing Party Name: The Respondent. This spouse plays a lesser role in an uncontested Dissolution of Marriage versus a contested Dissolution of Marriage. He or she will be required to sign and/or respond in a timely fashion to the documents filed by his or her spouse.

Family Law or Domestic Relations Court: Superior Court of California, County of __________. All Dissolution of Marriage cases in the state of California are facilitated through this court for that particular county.

Clerk's Name: All correspondence with a California clerk of the court should formally address him or her as follows: County Clerk's Office of the Superior Court.

Property and Debt Division: California is considered a "community property" state. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on how the community property will be divided, the court shall use a three step process. First, it will determine what property is community. Second, it will put a value on the community property. Third, it will divide the community property in an equal fashion.

For the purpose of division of property on dissolution of marriage or legal separation of the parties, property acquired by the parties during marriage in joint form, including property held in tenancy in common, joint tenancy, or tenancy by the entirety, or as community property, is presumed to be community property. This presumption is a presumption affecting the burden of proof and may be rebutted by either of the following: (a) A clear statement in the deed or other documentary evidence of title by which the property is acquired that the property is separate property and not community property. (b) Proof that the parties have made a written agreement that the property is separate property.

Where economic circumstances warrant, the court may award an asset of the community estate to one party on such conditions as the court deems proper to effect a substantially equal division of the community estate.

As an additional award or offset against existing property, the court may award, from a party's share, the amount the court determines to have been deliberately misappropriated by the party to the exclusion of the interest of the other party in the community estate.

Debts incurred by either spouse after the date of separation but before entry of a judgment of dissolution of marriage or legal separation of the parties shall be confirmed as follows: (a) Debts incurred by either spouse for the common necessaries of life of either spouse or the necessaries of life of the children of the marriage for whom support may be ordered, in the absence of a court order or written agreement for support or for the payment of these debts, shall be confirmed to either spouse according to the parties' respective needs and abilities to pay at the time the debt was incurred. (b) Debts incurred by either spouse for nonnecessaries of that spouse or children of the marriage for whom support may be ordered shall be confirmed without offset to the spouse who incurred the debt.

Debts incurred by either spouse after entry of a judgment of dissolution of marriage but before termination of the parties' marital status or after entry of a judgment of legal separation of the parties shall be confirmed without offset to the spouse who incurred the debt. (California Code - Sections: 2501, 2581, 2601, 2602, 2621, 2623, 2625, 2641)

Spousal Support, Maintenance, or Alimony: Determining the amount of spousal support, if any, is not as objective as determining child support. Spousal support, whether permanent or temporary, is typically decided on a case-by-case basis, because it is very likely that unique circumstances and factors regarding the marriage and the property award will play a significant role in allowing the court to arrive at the appropriate amount.

In ordering spousal support under this part, the court shall consider all of the following circumstances: (a) The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account all of the following: (1) The marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment. (2) current and future earning capacity (b) The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party. (c) The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party's earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living. (d) the standard of living established during the marriage. (e) The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party. (f) The duration of the marriage. (g) The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party. (h) The age and health condition of the parties. (i) Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211, between the parties, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party. (j) any tax consequences to each party. (k) The balance of the hardships to each party. (l) The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a "reasonable period of time" for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the court's discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section, Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties. (m) The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse (n) Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable. (California Code - Sections: 4320, 4324, 4330)

Custody and Visitation: Shared or joint child custody has become more and more popular with the California courts. If you and your spouse request to have joint or shared "legal" custody, it will almost always be granted. As for joint or shared "physical" custody, the court will examine this a bit more closely to determine if it is a realistic choice that would result in an arrangement that is best for the children.

In making a determination of the best interest of the child, the court shall, among any other factors it finds relevant, consider all of the following: (1) The health, safety, and welfare of the child. (2) Any history of abuse by one parent or any other person seeking custody against any of the following: (a) 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. (b) The other parent. (c) 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. (3) The nature and amount of contact with both parents. (4) The habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances or habitual or continual abuse of alcohol by either parent. (California Code - Sections: 3011, 3020, 3024, 3040, 3042)

Determining Child Support: The basis for determining a monthly support amount is best achieved by referring to the California child support worksheet. The worksheet utilizes the child support guidelines that are defined by state law. The court will use this same worksheet as a building block for determining the support obligation, that is if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on this issue.

In implementing the statewide uniform guideline, the courts shall adhere to the following principles: (1) A parent's first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent's circumstances and station in life. (2) Both parents are mutually responsible for the support of their children. (3) The guideline takes into account each parent's actual income and level of responsibility for the children. (4) Each parent should pay for the support of the children according to his or her ability. (5) The guideline seeks to place the interests of children as the state's top priority. (6) Children should share in the standard of living of both parents. Child support may therefore appropriately improve the standard of living of the custodial household to improve the lives of the children. (7) Child support orders in cases in which both parents have high levels of responsibility for the children should reflect the increased costs of raising the children in two homes and should minimize significant disparities in the children's living standards in the two homes. (8) The financial needs of the children should be met through private financial resources as much as possible. (9) It is presumed that a parent having primary physical responsibility for the children contributes a significant portion of available resources for the support of the children. (10) The guideline seeks to encourage fair and efficient settlements of conflicts between parents and seeks to minimize the need for litigation. (11) The guideline is intended to be presumptively correct in all cases, and only under special circumstances should child support orders fall below the child support mandated by the guideline formula. (12) Child support orders must ensure that children actually receive fair, timely, and sufficient support reflecting the state's high standard of living and high costs of raising children compared to other states. (California Code - Sections: 3024, 3622, 4001, 4050)

Copyright Notice: These California divorce laws above are copyrighted by 3 Step Solutions, LLC. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.

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