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Divorce Law California - A Guide To California Divorce

history of divorce in california grounds for divorce in california residency requirements for california divorce property distribution in california divorce spousal support in california divorce

Though California has not officially aggregated divorce statistics on a statewide basis for over 20 years, a 2008 report entitled The State of California’s Unions: Marriage and Divorce in the Golden State, published by the California Healthy Marriages Coalition, puts the number of divorcing couples at 120,000 annually.

History of Divorce in California

California’s first divorce laws were enacted in 1851, and contained the following grounds for divorce:

• Impotence
• Adultery
• Extreme cruelty
• Desertion or neglect
• Habitual intemperance,
• Fraud
• Conviction for a felony

During the gold rush, California’s divorce rate was the highest in the world, and a little over 100 years later, in 1969, California reaffirmed its liberal outlook towards marital dissolution by becoming the first state in the nation to enact a no-fault divorce law.

Grounds For Divorce in California

Currently there are only two grounds for divorce in California: “irreconcilable differences” which have caused irreparable damage to the marriage and “incurable insanity.” The second ground, defined in the California Code – Section 2310, can only be invoked through supporting testimony from a psychiatrist or other medical professional. The first ground is outlined in California’s Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act §§302(2), 305 (1971), and allows divorce to be granted upon petition from either spouse without either a mandatory waiting period or proof of conjugal misconduct.

The no-fault divorce grounds pioneered in California differ legally from more traditional grounds for divorce still found in many states in a number of significant ways:

• Where traditional grounds for divorce are restrictive laws whose aim is to protect the sanctity of marriage, no-fault divorce is a permissive law that facilitates divorce.

• Traditional divorce laws require specific reasons for dissolving a marriage; no-fault divorce laws do not.

• There is a moral framework inherent in traditional divorce laws: one party is guilty, one party is innocent. No such judgment is implicit in no-fault divorce.

• Under traditional divorce laws ,one party’s actions are clearly the cause of the marriage’s breakdown and frequently the distribution of marital assets is linked to this, with the greater share of the property going to the innocent spouse. Under no-fault divorce laws, the cause of marital breakdown is irrelevant, assets are divided equally and support is based on need.

Residency Requirements For California Divorce

Residency requirements for California divorces are covered by California Code – Sections: 297, 298, 2320, and 2339.

California courts will only assume jurisdictional rights to hear a divorce case when one of the spouses has been a resident of California for six months or longer, and a resident of the county in which the divorce proceedings have been filed for three months or longer.

Property Distribution in California Divorce

The division of marital assets in a California divorce is covered by the California Code – Sections: 2501, 2581, 2601, 2602, 2621, 2623, 2625 and 2641.

All property acquired during the property, other than gifts or inheritances specifically made over to one spouse, is considered to be community property. Divorcing spouses may make their own dispensations of community property, but in cases where no agreement is reached, the court will divide the property equally between the divorcing parties. All property acquired during the marriage is assumed by the court to be community property unless there exists clear documentary evidence to the contrary or the divorcing spouses have a written statement affirming the property belongs to only one of them.

Spousal Support in California Divorce

When it applies, the issue of spousal support is possibly the most complicated part of a California divorce action. Spousal support is always reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The court looks at 14 factors including the duration of the marriage and the extent to which both parties’ earning capacities are sufficient to maintain the standards of living they enjoyed during the marriage. Spousal support is addressed by California Code – Sections: 4320, 4324 and 4330.

Child Custody and Support In California Divorces

Minor child custody issues in California divorces are covered by California Code – Sections: 3011, 3020, 3024, 3040 and 3042, while child support guidelines are addressed in California Code – Sections: 3024, 3622, 4001 and 4050.

If divorcing parents cannot agree between themselves who should have custody, then the court will make that determination based on the health, safety and welfare of the minor child. An Income Shares Model, based on each parent’s income, determines Child support.

Divorce Legal Advice - Seek Legal Advice before Filing for a Divorce [next] [back] Divorce Do It Yourself - How to Proceed with a Do-It-Yourself Divorce

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