Divorce Laws in California

By Holly Cameron

A divorce, or dissolution, formally ends a marriage or legal partnership. Division 6 of the California Family Code sets out the laws relating to divorce in the state. Before filing for divorce in California, at least one of the parties must be resident in the state for at least six months and one spouse a resident of the county where the divorce petition is being filed for three months. The procedure for divorce varies according to whether the couple have children or property together.

Grounds for Divorce

California law grants divorces on a “no fault” basis; therefore neither party is required to prove that the other is at fault. According to section 2310 of the California Family Code, the law grants divorce in two situations. The most common ground for divorce is that the married couple has irreconcilable differences, and that these have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. An additional ground for divorce occurs if either or both parties has become incurably insane, as certified by a medical practitioner.

Summary Dissolution

Couples who have been married for five years or less with no children from the marriage may apply for divorce by summary dissolution, provided they do not own any real property or other property over a certain value. The summary dissolution procedure does not require a court hearing before a judge. Section 2400 of the California Family Code states that the parties must also reach agreement regarding the division of all their assets and waive any rights to spousal support before applying for summary dissolution.

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Regular Dissolution

If couples do not meet the requirements for a Summary Dissolution, they must follow the procedure for a Regular Dissolution of the marriage. To start the divorce process, one of the spouses must complete and file Forms FL-100 and Form FL-110. If there are children under the age of 18, the parent must also complete Form FL-105/GC-120 to comply with international and state child custody requirements. The petitioning spouse should also fill out financial disclosure forms to assist the court in determining a financial settlement.

Spousal Support

Depending on the circumstances, the court may require one of the spouses to pay a regular sum of money to the other after the finalization of the divorce. The judge calculates this sum, known as “spousal support," after considering the earning capacity and skills of each party to the divorce. The duration of the spousal support depends on the particular circumstances, including the length of the marriage.

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