In California the process of divorce is known as dissolution of marriage. In 1971 California was the first State to institute no fault divorce.
A Very General Overview of Divorce in California
By: Michele Sacks Lowenstein, Certified Family Law Specialist;
State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization

Divorce In California

There are only two grounds for divorce in California; irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity. The purpose of a dissolution of marriage is to restore the parties to the status of being unmarried. A dissolution of marriage is a legal process by which the parties involved will ultimately obtain court orders to divide the assets and debts they have acquired during their marriage. When the parties have minor children, they are also required to obtain court orders providing for the custody or parenting of their children as well as an order for child support. In many cases an order for spousal support or alimony is also necessary. People go about obtaining these orders in a variety of ways. Sometimes they are able to reach agreements between themselves, without attorneys, and memorialize in writings which become court orders. Other times they require the assistance of attorneys and are able to reach agreements without going to court. Some people are not able to resolve the issues between them and require court intervention. In those cases the parties will have to go to court and after hearing evidence a judge will make a decision which becomes a court order. The amount of time this process takes can vary. It depends upon the complexity of the issues and whether court intervention will be required. The soonest that parties will be able to remarry is six months after the Petition for Dissolution has been filed and served. This does not, however, mean that issues will be resolved within six months as many cases take much longer. By the same token, many cases can be resolved in less than six months. However, even in those cases the dissolution is not “final” until the six months has expired.

Division of Assets

Marital Assets: California is a community property state. Community property is divided equally between the parties. Community property is defined as all property acquired during marriage except for that property which has been acquired by gift or inheritance. Community property is all assets acquired during the marriage. This includes a wide variety assets such as: household furnishings; real estate; patents; copyrights; vehicles; pension plans; business interests, vacation pay and stock options. The length of the marriage is measured from the date the parties married to the date the parties separated.
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Non-Marital Assets: The rights and responsibilities of registered domestic partners in California was expanded on January 1, 2005 to be similar to those of married couples in many aspects. The rights of registered domestic partners now include community property rights.

Child Custody

Whenever parents are unable to reach an agreement with regard to custody (also known as a parenting plan), California law requires them to first participate in custody mediation. In California, there are two types of custody: legal and physical. “Joint legal custody is the most common form of legal custody. Joint legal custody means that both parents shall share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. Whether a parent has physical custody is defined by the time the child or children are in that parent’s care.

California law requires that the parents participate in mediation before the court can make any orders for child custody and visitation. Mediation is generally conducted through the Superior Court. If the mediation does not result in the parents reaching an agreement, the court will issue the orders it feels are in the best interest of the children.

michele sacks lowenstein is a principal in the san diego law firm lowenstein brown, aplc elizabeth m. brown is a principal in the san diego law firm lowenstein brown, aplc