California divorce laws primarily include the law of property division, child support, child custody, visitation and spousal support. So when one of the spouses files for a California divorce, the law provides that the judge can deal with all of those issues in addition to providing a legal divorce decree.
CA divorce laws permit the parties to either represent themselves or to hire divorce lawyers to do the heavy lifting for them. At a minimum, though, all litigants should at least familiarize themselves with the basics of California divorce laws to help prepare for court appearance and file papers with the court.
California Divorce Residency Requirements Law
Not all residents can get a divorce in this state. One of the spouses can file if he or she has lived in the state for at least the six months right before filing for the divorce. However, the last three months before the filing must be in the county where the California divorce is filed.
California Divorce Law on Property Division
Because California is a community property state, it has a simplified process for property division for divorce. The divorce law says that each spouse will get 50 percent, but it is not the 50 percent that many people think it is. The only property that is split is the property that was acquired after the marriage up to the end of the marriage. So if a rich businessman marries a young girl after he is already rich, all of the property acquired before the marriage is not included in the property division. Rather, the cash or other assets received during the marriage will be divided on an equal basis.
Note that the parties may agree to a different arrangement as long as the court deems the agreement to be legal and enforceable. For example, hiding assets could invalidate a property settlement.
California Divorce Law on Spousal Support
The court considers the income of each party and a multitude of other factors in deciding whether to award spousal support in California. You may review these factors in the California Family Code, Section 4320 (see link in Resources).
Child Custody Laws and Divorce
It can get very complicated when the parties cannot agree on child custody and visitation. Like spousal support, there is a list of factors to determine child custody in California divorce cases. You can review these factors in the California Family Code, Section 3011. However, other laws within the Family Code are also relevant to a judge’s decision on custody. This is the main area where morality and past conduct can become highly relevant, as the overall standard is what is in the best interests of the child.
Child Support Laws Relevant in California Divorce
The state uses complicated child support guidelines to determine how much is owed in child support. To estimate how much a court would order in support, you can use a California child support calculator (see Resources). Note that a real court may arrive at a different child support amount than the calculator, so use it only as an estimate.
You can get further information on California divorce laws, including steps to an uncontested divorce, from the California Courts Self-Help Center (see link below).
California Courts Self-Help Center: Divorce Residency Requirements
Divorce Support: California Law on Property Division in Divorce
California Family Code, Section 4320
AllLaw: California Child Support Calculator
California Courts Self-Help Center: Divorce, Legal Separation and Annulment