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Divorce Laws in California: A Comprehensive Overview

Steve Fernandez and Mark Karney are both Certified Family Law Specialists* with over 50 years of combined experience.

Your Rights Under the Divorce Laws in California

 

Statistics suggest that at least 51 percent of marriages will end in divorce. However, very few couples venture into their partnership with divorce in mind. When rifts and irreparable damages appear in a marriage, both parties are usually caught off guard. And when divorce papers are filed and served, most spouses have little or no idea what their rights are.

Outlined below are some of the rights to keep in mind while you file for divorce in California.

The right to seek mediation – Before you and your spouse file for a legal separation, a mediator can help both of you to agree on the best way to dissolve the marriage.

The right to represent yourself – You have the right under California divorce laws to represent yourself in divorce proceedings. Self-representation, however, is not recommended unless you know exactly how divorce courts work and how the divorce laws can be used to your advantage.

However, a person may choose to represent themselves in a California divorce court after considering the following factors:

  • The cost of hiring divorce attorneys
  • Time constraints
  • The level of cordiality between you and your spouse
  • The impact the process may have on your child or children

The right to an attorney – Parties in divorce proceedings in California can consult an attorney of their choice to represent them in court. There is a provision for anyone who has little income and cannot afford a lawyer.

The right to limited legal representation – While going through a California divorce, you may choose to consult a divorce attorney to represent you in some limited capacity. This option is usually for any person who has a low budget.

No matter what route you choose to go through to end your marriage, the trusted family law attorneys at Fernandez & Karney are here to assist you. From complex property division to child support, we have extensive experience helping California families navigate all areas of divorce law.

What’s Unique About the Divorce Law in California?

The unique thing about the divorce law in California is that a “no-fault” rule of law applies. In other words, a spouse need not prove that he/she is a victim of domestic violence or any other form of marital abuse.

During a California divorce, neither of the parties in the divorce proceedings needs to prove that the other spouse is the cause of the legal separation. Parties filing for divorce in California only need to state that the spouses have irreconcilable differences and the union has broken down irretrievably. Your Los Angeles divorce lawyer can provide additional information on this.

 

What You Should Know About Divorce Laws in California State

There is a lot to know about the procedures of divorce and legal separation in California. It is important to take note of all of them if you’re going to be involved in the dissolution of your marriage. It is also crucial to know what the divorce laws in California State cover.

Listed below are the different issues and areas that are covered in divorce proceedings:

  • The custody of the children in the marriage
  • Child support
  • California property division
  • Alimony/spousal support
  • Debts and other liabilities

However, there are slightly different rules for couples who seek to dissolve domestic partnerships in California. When a domestic partnership is involved, the courts in California will take into consideration the following factors:

  • If the parties have children
  • The nature of their properties
  • If the parties have debts
  • The agreement of the parties

Note that under the divorce laws in California, one spouse can still obtain a default judgment or court order if the other party refuses or fails to participate in the proceedings. In such a case, the boycotting party will be forced to adhere to orders and instructions issued by the presiding judge.

What Are the Divorce Laws in California?

 

Each state has its requirements and laws for the dissolution of marriages. The State of California is no different. Outlined below are important facts to know about divorce laws in California State:

  • To be eligible to file for divorce in California, couples must meet stipulated residency requirements. One of these requirements states that one spouse must have lived in the state for a minimum of six months.
  • Another residency requirement is that one spouse must also have lived in the county in California where each party intends to file the proceeding. Like other residency requirements, this one has a caveat. It states that either the husband or the wife must have lived in the county for at least three months.
  • A spouse filing for divorce in California must state that there are irreconcilable differences in the marriage.

In California, spouses can obtain a divorce without going through the trouble and process of a full court trial or hearing. This process is known as a summary dissolution of marriage.

The following requirements must be met in order to be eligible for a summary dissolution of marriage in California:

  • The couple must file a joint petition for the summary dissolution of the marriage.
  • The parties must have been married for not less than five years on the date the divorce petition was filed.
  • The spouses have decided on their marital settlement agreement to share their community assets, separate property, and debt.
  • The spouses owe less than $6,000 in debt, apart from auto loans.
  • The spouses have no children and the wife is not pregnant.
  • No spouse has a separate property more than $38,000, except automobile loans.
  • The parties agree that neither of the parties will get alimony or any kind of spousal support.

Basic Divorce Rules in California

The divorce rules in California are strictly applied whether you have an attorney or are self-represented. It is therefore important to familiarize yourself with some of the basic divorce rules:

  • Obtaining, filing, and serving the official disclosure forms.
  • Having your marital settlement agreement endorsed by a judicial officer.
  • Complying with the rules of court.
  • Using the correct California court’s format.
  • Arguing only issues within the court’s jurisdiction.

Divorce Property Laws in California

One problematic issue between parties in divorce proceedings is how their properties should be amicably divided.

Divorce property laws in California recognize the rights of a spouse to the properties acquired during the marriage. There are two types of property; community property and separate property. The state of California is generally regarded as a community property state.

Community Property – Community property is that which the parties in a divorce matter acquired when they were married. Generally, community property is divided equally between the spouses except in special circumstances. Joint bank accounts and debts incurred on credit cards can be declared by a judge to be community property, although it bears the name of one spouse.

Separate Property – Separate property is that acquired by a party before marriage. Sometimes it is difficult to determine and differentiate the separate property from community property.

Separate property can include:

  • Inheritances, such as real estate, received before or during the marriage.
  • Personal gifts, received by either partner.
  • Profits and rents received from each party’s separate property.

Separate property is not part of the property allocation. If you are not sure if your property is community property or separate property, consult an experienced divorce attorney for advice.

Although in California, the court considers all belongings acquired during the marriage as community property, that presumption is rebuttable. A party can prove that an asset is not community property by producing some documentary evidence to show that fact.

Get Reliable Assistance With the Law for Divorce in California

 

Divorce in the state of California, like other places, can be a very traumatic experience. If mishandled, the consequences can be dire to both the spouses and other family members.

Some laws regulate each step a spouse should take in a divorce proceeding in California. Succeeding in your claims or getting the right court order is hinged on complying with these laws.

No matter your circumstance, you need the assistance of experienced family law attorneys in California who can inform you of your rights and guide you through the divorce process. If you’re ready to begin moving forward, contact Fernandez & Karney today to schedule a free consultation.

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1 Certified Family Law Specialists

2 Over 50+ years of combined experience

3 Experienced with complex divorce and child custody cases