California Family Law
In the state of California, divorce is referred to as the "dissolution of marriage". The spouse petitioning for the dissolution of marriage is called the "petitioner", and the spouse receiving the petition is considered the "respondent". These terms apply all throughout the divorce process. It will take at least six months for the divorce process to be completed.
No Fault State
California is a "no fault" state, which means that a spouse can file a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage by citing irreconcilable differences. Unlike other states, no proof is required to establish irreconcilable differences as a ground for divorce.
Typically, the state of California will have jurisdiction over the divorce proceedings if one of the spouses has been a California resident for at least six months prior to filing a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage. The petitioner must also be a resident with the county in which the divorce is to be filed for at least three months.
Issues to Consider
After a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage is filed, the following issues must be addressed:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Child visitation
- Spousal support
- Property division
- Credit and debt disbursement
During the divorce proceedings, the spouses should try to come to a resolution in relation to the issues mentioned. These issues can be very emotionally challenging and become problematic rather easily. That is why most spouses seek the expertise of an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can aid the divorce process by providing legal information, counsel, and mediation.
Community Property vs. Separate Property
California is considered a "community property" state. Community property is defined as any acquired property, or earned income, that is obtained during the marriage. If there is no prior written agreement amongst the spouses, the community property will be divided equally. Each spouse will receive half of the net community estate. This includes employee pensions, employee benefits, profits from businesses, and professional practices accrued throughout the marriage. In California, if one spouse supported another while they obtained a professional license or college degree, he/she may be entitled to reimbursement as money spent on tuition, fees, and books is subject to community property laws.
Property that is not considered part of the net community estate is called "separate property". Separate property is property acquired by a spouse prior, or during, the marriage that is by gift, devise, or bequest. In California, separate property remains in the possession of the rightful owner and it is not divided.
Final Divorce Proceedings
After the Petition for the Dissolution of marriage is filed by the petitioner, it is then served to the respondent. The respondent has 30 days to file a response from the date they are served with legal papers. If a response is not filed, the petitioning spouse may proceed with the legal process by default. This means that the divorce process can continue without the input of the respondent.
Interim meetings (hearings) may then take place to award "temporary" orders for important issues such as property disbursement and child custody. However, permanent orders are issued at the final divorce trial by the judge presiding over the case. At the trial, the judge will decide which property is community and separate. Community property will be awarded equally to each of the spouses. At this time, the judge will also deliver the "final orders" for child custody, child support, and visitation rights.
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Fierro Law Firm
7462 N. Figueroa Street, Suite 101
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 550-1400