Divorce Basics

While Divorce is never contemplated at the time of your marriage, understanding the process is essential to protecting your financial security after dissolution.  The divorce process can become nuanced depending on numerous factors such as the length of the marriage, business ownership, and custody issues to name a few.  The following contains some of the basic information you would need to better understand the process from a high-level perspective. 

Grounds for Divorce

California is a no-fault divorce state which means that neither party must prove any specific reason for the divorce.  This means even where one spouse does not want the divorce, it will not prevent the other spouse from seeking the divorce.  

You can file for divorce or for legal separation in California based on either of the following grounds (reasons):

  1. Irreconcilable differences, which have caused the permanent breakdown of the marriage; or
  2. Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions. For this ground, there needs to be proof (competent medical or psychiatric testimony) that the spouse was at the time the petition was filed, and still is, lacking the legal capacity to make decisions.

Initiating a Divorce

To initiate a divorce in California, at least one party must be a resident of California for at least six months, and a resident of the county in which the petition is filed for at least three months.  However, when filing a petition for separation, only one party must reside in California.  There is no requirement for how long the party has lived within the state. 

Once the Residency requirements are met, the person seeking the divorce (“Petitioner”) would need to complete two forms:

  • Petition — Marriage/Domestic Partnership(form FL-100

This form asks for basic information about your marriage and the type of orders you want the court to be able to make about things like spousal support and property. 

The Summons tells your spouse that you've started a court case and that they have 30 days to respond.

 Child Custody

Child custody refers to the responsibilities of the parents taking care of minor children.  Legal custody refers to who may make important decisions for the child(ren) and physical custody refers to who the child(ren) live with most of the time. 

For legal custody, parents may have joint legal custody in which both parents share in the responsibilities for making important decisions about the child(ren).  Sole legal custody means that only one parent has this responsibility. 

Under California law, it is the policy of the State to ensure minor children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents, except when that contact would not be in the child's best interest. In making this determination, a court will consider the child's health, safety, and general welfare. 

Spousal Support

Spousal support, known in some states as alimony or spousal maintenance, is a court order in which one party provides financial support to the other for some amount of time after divorce. It attempts to lessen the financial disparity between spouses often encountered with divorce. This includes cases where one ex-spouse is unable to be financially self-sufficient. 

Courts base this decision on several factors (14 to be exact) and is intended to be a temporary equitable distribution of the family income, considering the parties' individual incomes and expenses.  Some of the factors a court will consider are the age, earning capacity, needs, and health of each party.

Everyone knows how difficult the divorce process can be for all parties involved, including the couple, the children, and even their extended families. We deal with family issues daily and have the knowledge, skills, and resources to help you transition through the entire divorce process as comfortably.

Contact us today to help you fully understand the requirements and to make sure your personal and financial interests are protected.