California Divorce Law

California Divorce Laws

California is the state that invented modern no-fault divorce laws in the late 1960s, and now the rest of the country more or less has California divorce laws.  This article provides a basic overview that can help if you are considering a divorce.

California Divorce Laws – Property Division

California is a community property state, which means that pretty much all of the property either spouse acquired during the marriage is actually the joint property of both spouses.  There are exceptions for things like inheritances and gifts, but other than that everything is usually split in half at the divorce.  

Of course, figuring out an even split is not always easy.  A bank account can be split, but splitting a house with a mortgage can be harder.  

One spouse might have to buy out the other spouse’s equity in the home, for example.  A judge can also alter the split to take into account the circumstances of the marriage or issues like alimony.

California Divorce Laws – Alimony

California is one of the states that still allows for “partner support” or “spousal support,” which is commonly called alimony.  Under California divorce laws, spousal support requests look at things like the length of a marriage, earning capacity of each spouse, and whether one spouse contributed to the other’s career.  

The classic example is a stay-at-home mom who worked to put her doctor husband through medical school.  The husband’s career was made possible through his wife’s work, and her career was then harmed by the family’s decision for her to stay home with the kids.  

This husband might get ordered to pay spousal support, but in modern times most couples simply split their money and go their separate ways.

California Divorce Laws – Child Custody

California divorce laws generally require a court to make a decision on child custody issues at the time of a divorce.  The court has to always look out for the best interests of the child, regardless of what the parents say they want.  

Joint custody is the default, with a child moving back and forth between the parents’ homes.  That said, in some circumstances, such as one parent being abusive or negligent, sole custody could be awarded.  The spouse that makes more money will often also have to pay support to the other parents to help cover the costs of raising their child.

California Divorce Laws FAQ

Perhaps the most-asked question regarding California divorce laws is “how fast can I get divorced?”  Well, if you have less than $41,000 in assets and no children, you can get divorced almost immediately.  For anyone else, the fastest you can get divorced is six months, and that is if you can get all your disputes settled quickly with your spouse. 

People also frequently ask what the grounds for divorce are in California.  All divorces under California divorce laws are granted on a no-fault basis, which in California is “irreconcilable differences.”  Nobody necessarily has to do anything wrong.  The couple just has to decide to go their separate ways.

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