Frequently Asked Questions About California Divorce

Below are some of the common questions we hear from new clients. For a detailed discussion of your specific scenario, call the Law Offices of John H. Tannenberg, A.P.C. at 619-235-6169 or 858-755-3300 to arrange a consultation with our experienced, board-certified family law attorney.

What Are The Grounds For Divorce In California?

California has no-fault divorce. Either party can seek a dissolution of marriage on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” It is not necessary to prove adultery, abandonment, abuse or any other wrongdoing, although the court may take such things into consideration when dividing property or awarding spousal support. The marriage can be dissolved even if one party objects to getting divorced.

What Is The Residency Requirement?

One of the spouses must be a California resident for at least six months before filing for divorce and reside for at least three months in the county where the petition is filed.

Do We Have To Get A Legal Separation First?

No. Sometimes spouses seek a legal separation to clarify legal and financial issues while a divorce is pending, or in hopes of reconciling. But there is no requirement that you formally separate or live apart for a specific period before filing for divorce. There is no minimum residency requirement to file for a legal separation.

How Long Does It Take Get A Divorce?

The soonest an uncontested divorce can be granted is six months from the date that the spouse is served with the papers. Any court proceedings stretch out the timeline. It is common for a contested divorce to take 12 to 18 months. The more issues you can resolve out of court, the sooner a divorce can be finalized.

How Much Does It Cost To Get A Divorce?

Every case is different. An uncontested divorce is much less expensive than a divorce involving complex assets or a divorce in which children are involve. The main cost drivers are conflicts that must be litigated and issues that require outside experts such as accountants, appraisers or business valuation specialists. The more issues you can resolve out of court, the more you can control the costs. Make sure to have a conversation with your attorney at the beginning of the process to get a gauge on the projected cost.

How Is Property Divided In A California Divorce?

California is a community property state. In theory, each spouse is entitled to half of all wealth acquired during the marriage. Separate property is exempt, such as assets owned prior to the marriage or an inheritance received during the marriage. In reality, defining what is community property and separate property can be complex and hotly contested. Some assets cannot be split in half (a house, a car, a business), in which case one spouse is compensated in other ways to even things out.

What Happens To Debts In Divorce?

Debt is treated the same way as community property. Both spouses are legally accountable for debts acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the loan or credit card account. Debt can be a trading chip – for example, one spouse keeps a larger share of the assets in exchange for taking on a larger share of marital debts.

How Is Child Custody Determined?

California courts presume that both divorcing parents deserve to be and will be involved in the child’s upbringing. Except in rare cases, both parents will be awarded joint legal custody (decision-making responsibility). One parent is usually granted primary physical custody, but the court will usually award the other parent significant (if not equal) parenting time. Sole custody is reserved for extreme circumstances in which one parent is unfit or represents a threat to the child’s well-being, such as abuse, addiction or mental illness. The court is always focused on evidence which supports the best interests of the children and not necessarily what is in the best interest of the parent.

How Is Child Support Determined?

Child support payments are based on statutory formula. The main factors are the parents’ incomes, the number of children, and the time share that each parent has primary responsibility for the child or children, but the amount can be adjusted up or down based on other circumstances. When a high earner exceeds the support guidelines, the amount can be negotiated.

Either parent can petition the court to increase or decrease child support when there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as unemployment, a promotion or new job, an increase/decrease in parenting time, or changing needs of the child.

Will There Be Alimony In My Divorce?

Spousal support (also known as alimony) is not awarded in every divorce.The court considers numerous factors, including disparity in incomes and earning capacity, length of the marriage, the marital standard of living, and age or health issues that present a barrier to working. Support awards are typically short-term — a year or a few years — to allow the lesser-earning spouse to reach financial stability.

What If I Can’t Afford A Divorce Lawyer?

You deserve quality legal representation for the conflicts and hard choices ahead. You should not have to go into debt or raid your retirement savings to be on equal footing in divorce proceedings. If your spouse has a significantly higher income or controls the accounts, you can petition the court to have your spouse subsidize all or part of your attorney fees.