How to File for Divorce in California

Filing for divorce in California is not difficult. As a matter of fact, when you learn how to file for divorce in the state, you might be surprised how speedy and streamlined the process has become!

Discover Your Jurisdiction

Locate the family law court in your California county of residence (this is the county in which you or your spouse have lived for at least three months). Although the Rules of Civil Procedure have streamlined the legalities that involve the divorce proceedings, each court has its idiosyncrasies when it comes to the number of copies it wants you to file along with the original, the days and times it is open for business and other minute details. Form packages for your divorce filing are available online or from the court.

Understanding Community Property

Your soon-to-be ex-spouse is entitled to 50% of all property that was accumulated during the marriage. The one possible exception could be a piece of property that is titled clearly only in one spouse’s name; however, if community property money was used to purchase the asset, the odds are good that it will eventually end up in the pool of items that need to be properly shared.

You have the opportunity to negotiate ahead of time an equitable settlement, which you submit to the court as the Marital Settlement Agreement. If you and your spouse fail to agree, the court will divide the property for you; you may find that this is not a beneficial exercise.

Spousal and Child Support

Spousal support is a rarity but it can happen that a filer convinces the court to order temporary maintenance to get back on her or his feet financially. This is most commonly the case with housewives or househusbands, who quit their jobs to take care of the home and children. Child support is always entered, even if one parent attempts to waive it. The reason behind this rationale is the fact that the money paid for the child’s upkeep is not the parent’s but instead belongs to the child — even though it is paid to the other parent.

Child Custody

Even more contentious than property settlements is the issue of child custody; assuming that you cannot agree on an equitable visitation schedule, the court will likely enlist the services of a guardian ad litem to determine the best interest of the child. This requires an intensive investigation of each parent’s background, drug use, living arrangement and also time spent with the child prior to the divorce.

For example, the absentee mother on copious business trips prior to the divorce is unlikely to be awarded sole custody, or even joint custody, when compared to the househusband, who quit his job to take care of the child and initiated homeschooling. In extreme cases, a court may order supervised visitation only. This is usually the case when there is the suspicion of abuse or the risk that the parent may take the child out of the country.

Should You Get a Lawyer?

If you have limited assets, no children and overall agree that a divorce is the best solution for everyone involved, there is little need for a lawyer. On the flipside, if property is extensive or child custody becomes an issue, an experienced family law attorney is a must!


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