Law Office of Jennifer L. King, PC

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Divorce & Family Law Information

California recognizes "no fault" divorce. This means that the spouse or domestic partner asking for the separation does not have to prove that the other spouse or partner did something wrong. Instead, the majority of divorces in California are granted due to irreconcilable differences. Some cases may proceed to trial while others can be resolved through settlement. Procedurally, divorce involves a variety of issues, such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division.

Property Division

California is a community property state. This implies that each spouse has an undivided, one-half interest in any property acquired during the marriage while residing in California (California Family Code § 760). The definition of community property generally applies to everything acquired during the marriage (e.g. assets, income, stock options, retirement interests as well as all debts incurred during the union). If the divorcing spouses cannot agree to a negotiated division of the community property, the court will order division.

Spousal Support
Formerly referred to as alimony, spousal support is the award of monthly payments by one spouse to another. A court may order spousal support after divorce is finalized. For marriages lasting less than ten years, courts typically award support for half the marriage's length. For unions of ten years or more, courts may award permanent alimony, until the spouse receiving the support remarries or until the death of either of spouse. 

When calculating the amount of support, courts consider the factors enumerated in Section 4320 of California Family Code. Among such factors, courts consider the following for each party: income and earnings, earning capacity, age and health, obligations and assets, and needs (based on the standard of living established during the marriage).
Child Support
Child support is calculated using a complex formula that considers each parent's income, tax deductions, and amount of time spent with the child (California Family Code § 4050). A court will decide on a case-by-case basis how much support one parent is required to pay based on the best interests of the child.  

Child support may be ordered to cover childcare expenses, medical and dental expenses, summer camps, or private schools. Child support may be modified until it terminates when the child is 18 (or 19 if the child is still a high school student). To request a modification, one party must demonstrate “changed circumstances.” Changed circumstances include a change in the income of either party, a change in visitation time, or special needs of the child.

Child Custody & Visitation
When considering child custody, two types will be addressed—legal custody and physical custody. The former refers to the ability to make decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the child. It is most often shared by both parties (California Family Code § 3003). The latter concerns the living arrangements of a child (California Family Code § 3004). It may vary. Joint physical custody occurs when a child spends a substantial amount of time at the home of each parent. When only one parent has primary physical custody, however, the child resides with the primary custodial parent. The other parent has visitation rights and may not live with the child. Parents may come to an agreement regarding custody and visitation, or the court will make the decision based on the best interest of the child (California Family Code § 3011).
Domestic Violence
A restraining order is a court order that protects against physical abuse, threats, stalking, or harassment. Under California law, a restraining order is a court order issued by a judge that commands a person to restrain from contact with, or to inflict no harm upon, another person. 

An individual can ask for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order if he/she has been abused by someone close. These individuals may be related, married, registered domestic partners, divorced, separated, or they may have a child. Restraining orders can command a person to leave the home he/she resides in if he/she is cohabiting with the petitioner (person filing). They can also enforce no contact with joint children, unless specific guidelines for visitation are respected. Violation of any restraining order is illegal in California and can lead to serious criminal charges.