Understanding basic tenets of divorce in California

The notion of a pending divorce can feel overwhelming to even the most steadfast person. Divorce brings a range of new challenges that all must be dealt with in order to finalize the process. If you are considering divorce, there are a few basic tenets of California divorce to keep in mind.


No fault state

California is a no fault state which means either spouse can file for divorce for any recognized legal reason and the spouse filing for divorce does not need to prove any fault by the other spouse. The filing spouse only needs to provide a reason the state honors for divorce. The most commonly cited reason is “irreconcilable differences,” meaning the couple can no longer get along.

6 month waiting period

The state of California requires a mandatory six month waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. This means the process will take at least six month from the date the spouse filing for divorce lets the other spouse know about the divorce. Even if all of the paperwork has been submitted to the courts and the divorce judgment approved by the courts, the divorce will not be finalized until after the six month date has passed. The process can take longer, depending on how long it takes couples to reach a divorce settlement, but it will not take any less than six months.

California residency requirements

California has a residency requirement in place. Either you or your spouse must have lived in California for at least six months and in the county where you are filing for divorce for a minimum of three months. If neither you nor your spouse meets the residency requirements, you can file for a legal separation. The separation can be amended to a petition for divorce once the residency requirements have been fulfilled.

Community property state

California is a community property state, which means that a marriage transforms two people into a single legal community. Any property or debt acquired during the marriage is communal. Essentially, community property covers everything the spouses own together and anything purchased during the marriage. Gifts and inheritances are excluded and are considered separate property. Community property also applies to earnings and money earned during the marriage is communal.

Divorce brings with it emotional challenges, but a little preparation can make it easier. When considering divorce, take time to educate yourself on divorce logistics and requirements in order to be more prepared for the process.

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