September 18, 2019

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Divorce in California

Orange County Law Firms

Divorce laws vary greatly from state-to-state. Although California has had some highly publicized divorces, and many people base their assumptions of how divorce works on what they have heard about California divorce, you should not rely on what you have heard or think you know about it. Divorce laws change over time, and each situation is unique. Even if your sister or best friend got divorced last month, their experience with the system may not apply to your case.

Grounds for California Divorce

California is a “no fault” divorce state. Grounds include:

  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Incurable insanity

You cannot legally block or prevent a divorce, in California, if one spouse or partner wants it.

Issues Addressed in Divorce

California divorce addresses the following:

  • Division of property and debt
  • Child custody and parenting time
  • Child support
  • Spousal or partner support (alimony)

Divorce vs. Legal Separation

Divorce legally ends a marriage or domestic partnership, and both spouses or partners are free to remarry or enter a new domestic partnership. Legal separation does not give you that freedom. You are still legally married.

Legal separation does settle the same matters as divorce, such as property distribution and child custody, but it allows you to retain some of the rights that come along with being married, including accruing time toward the 10 years of marriage necessary in order to be able to benefit from your spouse’s Social Security, and access to health insurance.

Some couples choose legal separation over divorce for religious or moral reasons.


There is no waiting period for remarriage, after your divorce becomes final. The waiting period occurs before the divorce becomes final. You must wait six months from the date that party who did not file for divorce is served with the divorce papers, even if all of the issues such as property distribution have been settled.

If they have not been settled by the time six months has passed, you can ask for “Bifurcation of Status” so that you are free to remarry and get on with your life in other ways, while the rest of the process continues.

Division of Property and Debt

Property and debts acquired during the marriage are considered community property. Community property is split evenly between spouses or domestic partners in California divorce. Separate property and debt remain with their original owner. As simple as that sounds, it can be a lengthy and complicated process. There may be disputes as to what is community property and what is separate property. The value of all community property must be determined. Assets may be liquidated, or property may be divided in other ways.