California's Child Support and Divorce Laws

by Wayne Thomas
A divorce can be difficult for both parents and children.

A divorce can be difficult for both parents and children.

Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Ending a marriage that involves minor children makes further contact between spouses a necessity. While each situation is unique, issues related to property division, child custody and child support must be resolved. In California, an understanding of what needs to be filed as well as the guidelines used by the court in making orders can minimize confusion and delays in the process.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Residency Requirements and Grounds for Divorce

To obtain a divorce in California, a spouse must be a resident of the state for at least six months prior to filing. There is an exception for same-sex couples that does not require either spouse to be a resident of the state if the marriage was entered into in California and neither spouse currently resides in a state that will grant the divorce. California has only two grounds for divorce, irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity.

Property Division

California is a community property state, meaning it recognizes that both spouses contributed to the marriage, regardless of who earned the majority of income. Property and debts acquired during the marriage are considered community property and each spouse is viewed as having a one-half interest in each. The court treats assets and debts acquired before the marriage or after separation as separate, non-community property; however, as these are often mingled with community property, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between the two.

Child Custody and Support

Although a determination of custody has no direct bearing on who pays support, often the noncustodial parent is responsible for child support. In California, payment amounts are determined by a set of statutory factors, including the net income of both parents and the amount of time the child spends with each. Both parents are also required to fill out an Income and Expense Declaration and provide proof of income.

Modification and Termination of Child Support

Upon request by either parent, a child support order may be modified for a variety of reasons, including a significant increase or decrease in either parent's income or a change in custody. Child support terminates when the child either turns 19 or graduates from high school, whichever event happens first. Other reasons support may terminate include the marriage, death or military enlistment of the child.