Gounds for Divorce
California is a “no-fault” state, which means the courts will grant a divorce if one spouse says there are irreconcilable differences justifying the dissolution of the marriage. No proof is required, and California courts do not care which spouse is at fault for the differences.
The courts don’t disregard fault entirely, though. For example, if your spouse abandoned the family or was violent, the court may consider those facts when dividing property or awarding spousal support. If your spouse spent money on gambling or an affair, a judge could use their discretion and order your spouse to reimburse you.
California Divorce Laws
California has a few requirements you should know about before filing for divorce.
- At least one of the spouses needs to be a California resident for at least six months before filing for divorce.
- You must file for divorce in a specific county within the state, and at least one of the spouses must have lived in that county for three months before filing for divorce.
- Once you file for divorce, there is a mandatory six-month waiting period before it can be finalized.
California is also a community property state, meaning that the court considers all assets acquired during the marriage to be the property of both spouses and will need to be divided accordingly. If you accumulate debt during your marriage, it is also considered community property.
California Divorce Process
The process for filing for a divorce in California is similar to the legal separation process; you have to fill out the same forms. For an overview of the process and forms that you will need to fill out, click here.
How you fill out your forms and what you write on your court papers is very important and can affect the outcome of your case if you later divorce. The legal separation court process can get very complicated, especially if you want to include spousal support orders, child custody orders, and orders dividing your property.
The forms must be accurate and complete; I highly recommend you hire a lawyer so that the forms accurately reflect your position. Hiring a lawyer is especially crucial if you think you and your spouse are likely to disagree about issues like spousal support, child custody, or division of property.
Contested vs Uncontested Divorce in California
In California, both contested and uncontested divorce are common.
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse agree to the terms of your divorce without the need for a family court trial. An uncontested divorce is generally more cost-effective and takes less time in comparison to a contested divorce.
If you and your spouse are unable to reach a settlement agreement, you will likely end up in a contested divorce. Typical matters of disagreement that lead to a contested divorce are issues such as:
The issues you can’t resolve will go to trial, and the court will issue a final judgment on the matter, at which point you have to abide by what the judge rules, even if you’re not happy with or don’t like the settlement.
A case may start out or later become contested, but it can become uncontested if you reach an agreement through mediation, negotiation, or another process.
Are you considering divorce? Schedule a free consultation with William Strachan, our Certified Family Law Specialist.