Do your own divorce
California - Divorce Requirements
The following information is to provide a basic understanding of the various aspects of California divorce.

Click here for more specific information regarding California divorce laws.

Every effort has been made to assure that the information contained in these pages is accurate however, due to the ever changing nature of the law some material may be outdated or may no longer apply.

Residency Requirements 6 months
Where to File Superior Court
Grounds for Divorce Dissolution of the marriage or legal separation of the parties may be based on either of the following grounds, which shall be pleaded generally:
  • Irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.
  • Incurable insanity
Voluntary or required mediation No
Voluntary or recommended CounselingThe court may require parents or any other party involved in a custody or visitation dispute, and the minor child, to participate in outpatient counseling with a licensed mental health professional,
Property Distribution California is a "community property" state. Any jointly-held property is presumed to be "community" property, unless it is clearly stated in a deed or written agreement that the property is "separate" property. Unless the spouses agree otherwise, all community and quasi-community property is divided equally between the spouses. If economic circumstances warrant, however, the court may award any asset to one spouse on such conditions as it feels proper to provide for a substantially equal distribution of property. In addition, if one of the spouses has deliberately misappropriated community property, the court may make an unequal division of the community property. Marital contributions to the education and training of the other spouse that substantially increases or enhances the other spouse's earning capacity are reimbursable to the community property. Each spouse shall be responsible for the following debts:
  • those incurred prior to marriage
  • any separate debts during the marriage that were not incurred to benefit the community (marriage)
  • their equitable share of any community debts made during the marriage
  • any debts incurred after separation and before dissolution of marriage if the debts were for non-necessities and an equitable share of debts incurred during this period if the debts were for necessities
Child Custody The mother of an unemancipated minor child and the father, if presumed to be the father under Section 7611, are equally entitled to the custody of the child. There is a presumption, affecting the burden of proof that joint custody is in the best interest of a minor child, subject to Section 3011, where the parents have agreed to joint custody or so agree in open court at a hearing for the purpose of determining the custody of the minor child.

In making a determination of the best interest of the child in a proceeding described in Section 3021, the court shall, among any other factors it finds relevant, consider all of the following:
  • The health, safety, and welfare of the child
  • Any history of abuse by one parent or any other person seeking custody against any of the following:
    1) Any child to whom he or she is related by blood or affinity or with whom he or she has had a caretaking relationship, no matter how temporary.
    2) The other parent.
    3) A parent, current spouse, or cohabitant, of the parent or person seeking custody, or a person with whom the parent or person seeking custody has a dating or engagement relationship. As a prerequisite to the consideration of allegations of abuse, the court may require substantial independent corroboration, including, but not limited to, written reports by law enforcement agencies, child protective services or other social welfare agencies, courts, medical facilities, or other public agencies or private nonprofit organizations providing services to victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. As used in this subdivision, "abuse against a child" means "child abuse" as defined in Section 11165.6 of the Penal Code and abuse against any of the other persons described In paragraph (2) or (3) means "abuse" as defined in Section 6203 of this code.
  • The nature and amount of contact with both parents, except as provided in Section 3046
  • The habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances or habitual or continual abuse of alcohol by either parent. Before considering these allegations, the court may first require independent corroboration, including, but not limited to, written reports from law enforcement agencies, courts, probation departments, social welfare agencies, medical facilities, rehabilitation facilities, or other public agencies or nonprofit organizations providing drug and alcohol abuse services. As used in this subdivision, "controlled substances" has the same meaning as defined in the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act, Division 10 (commencing with Section 11000) of the Health and Safety Code.
  • Where allegations about a parent pursuant to subdivision (b) or (d) have been brought to the attention of the court in the current proceeding, and the court makes an order for sole or joint custody to that parent, the court shall state its reasons in writing or on the record. In these circumstances, the court shall ensure that any order regarding custody or visitation is specific as to time, day, place, and manner of transfer of the child as set forth in subdivision (b) of Section 6323
The provisions of this subdivision shall not apply if the parties stipulate in writing or on the record regarding custody or visitation
Child Support Either parent may be ordered to pay an amount necessary for the support, maintenance, and education of the child. Child support payments may be awarded on a temporary basis during custody or child support proceedings. There is a mandatory minimum amount of child support which is determined by official forms which are available from the County Clerk of any county.
These minimum payment amounts will apply unless there is a reasonable agreement between the parents providing otherwise that states that:
  (1) the parents state that they are fully informed of their rights regarding child support        under California law
  (2) that the child support amount is being agreed to without coercion or duress
  (3) that both parents declare that their children's needs will be adequately met
  (4) that the right to child support has not been assigned to the county and that no public        assistance is pending

A parent may be required to provide medical insurance coverage for a child if such coverage is available at a reasonable cost. An applicant for child support must complete and submit to the court:
  (1) an application for an expedited child support order
  (2) an income and expense declaration from both parents
  (3) a worksheet setting forth the basis of the amount of child support requested and
  (4) a proposed expedited child support order

The parent required to pay may be required to give reasonable security for the support payments. In addition, there are detailed and extensive statutory provisions in California relating to the securing of child support payments. Please consult the statutes directly if this is an important factor.
Spousal Support The court may award support to either spouse in any amount and for any period of time that the court deems just and reasonable, based on the standard of living achieved during the marriage. The factors considered are:
  • whether the spouse seeking support is the custodian of a child whose circumstances make it appropriate for that spouse not to seek outside employment
  • the time necessary to acquire sufficient education and training to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment and that spouse's future earning capacity
  • the standard of living established during the marriage
  • the duration of the marriage
  • the comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market
  • the needs and obligations of each spouse
  • the contribution of each spouse to the marriage, including services rendered in homemaking, childcare, education, and career-building of the other spouse
  • the age and health of the spouses; (9) the physical and emotional conditions of the spouses; (10) the tax consequences to each spouse
  • the ability of the supporting spouse to pay, taking into account that spouse's earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living
  • the balance of hardships to each party
  • any other factor the court deems just and equitable
Marital misconduct is not a factor to be considered in determining the amount of support, except for a criminal conviction of an abusive spouse. The goal is specifically to make the supported spouse self-supporting in a reasonable period of time (generally considered to be half the length of the marriage).