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California Divorce Law – What You Need To Know


When you make the decision to get a divorce you are committing to a potentially lengthy and expensive legal process. The complexity of your divorce – and how long the process will take – will depend on a few different things. California is a no-fault divorce state. This means that either spouse can file for divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.”

If you and your spouse are both committed to the divorce and can agree on most things – including property division, child custody, and spousal support – your path a successful divorce can be fairly straightforward. However, a contested divorce or disputes over the details of the separation can complicate the situation. The best way to achieve the best possible result in your California divorce is to (1) hire an experienced California divorce attorney to represent you and (2) understand what it will take to get a divorce in California.

What is a Divorce?

When you decide to get divorced you must petition the court to legally end your marriage. Ending your marriage also puts an end to many of the benefits of marriage. You and your spouse want to end your union and pursue separate lives. Anything related to your marriage, then, must also be divided or assigned. This can include real and personal property, money, debts, bank accounts, and even the custody of any children. No California divorce can be finalized until all assets and liabilities are divided, child custody has been awarded, and alimony and/or child support payments have been determined. A divorce is a complicated legal process. While the process can be done without the assistance of an attorney, your chances of achieving the best possible result will increase when you hire a divorce lawyer to handle your case.

How is Property Divided in a California Divorce?

As a general rule, any property (or debts) you acquire during a marriage belongs equally to both spouses. This is known as “community property” and can include income, retirement benefits, gifts, and purchases you make. When you decide to get divorced, you and your spouse are both entitled to half of this property (and responsible for half of all debts). Dividing community property can be difficult because physical assets can be difficult to divide. For example, what happens when a couple who jointly own their home decide to get divorced? Who gets the house? The couple has two realistic options. First, they can sell the home and each recover half of the profit. Second, one spouse can be awarded the house in exchange for giving up other community property that is equal in value. Community property rules generally do not apply to property discussed in prenuptial agreements.

Property that is owned individually by one spouse before marriage and after separation generally belongs solely to that spouse. This is known as “separate property.” Separate property includes any income a spouse earns after a separation is official and anything purchased with that income. Separate property is not subject to division during a divorce. Instead, spouses are entitled to retain full ownership. Prenuptial agreements are often used to preserve separate property. It is important, though, to keep any documentation that tends to prove that property is separately owned. This can help to refute an allegation that your separate property is actually jointly owned.

What is the Process of Filing For a Divorce in California?

If you have committed to getting a divorce in California you must formally file your request with the court in the County in which you reside. Before you can do this, however, you or your spouse must have been a resident of California for at least 6 months. When you file your request with the County court you must include the petition (FL-100), Summons (FL-110), Property Declaration (FL-160), and (if necessary) declarations relevant to child custody and support (FL-105/GC-120, FL-311). Your spouse must also be formally served with these documents. Failure to properly serve your spouse can cause delays in the divorce process.

Your spouse is not required to respond to the divorce papers. They can decline to answer at all, agree to the terms of the divorce in a notarized statement, file a response with the court to agree to the terms of the divorce, or file a response with the court to contest the terms of the divorce. You and your spouse are free to negotiate the terms of your divorce on your own, without the intervention of the court. Most courts prefer for spouses to mutually agree to the terms of a divorce. Experienced California divorce attorneys can help divorcing spouses to arrange and construct divorces that are mutually agreeable.

In California, the process of divorce will take no less than 6 months. This 6-month period begins when the divorce paperwork is officially filed and the non-requesting spouse has been properly served. A contested divorce will take longer than an uncontested divorce.

Get the Most Out of Your Divorce By Hiring an Experienced California Divorce Attorney

Divorces can be extremely personal and intimate affairs. It is easy to get wrapped up in emotion when you are working to separate two lives that have been joined together. A divorce can be less overwhelming when spouses allow their divorce attorneys to lead the way. As experienced California divorce attorneys, we understand the complex legal process and the emotional implications involved in getting a divorce. At Berenji & Associates – Divorce Attorneys, we strive to make the process as easy as possible for our clients. We want to help you through this difficult time and get you the results you want. Contact our Los Angeles office today to schedule a free consultation.

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Competent attorneys at Powers Law, P.C. provide strong representation for criminal cases, family law, commercial litigation and real estate cases.