FAQs About a California Divorce

Divorce is notorious for being a stressful event, especially because it means a person’s life is turned upside-down; however, we must remember the old saying, “Knowledge is power,” and this certainly applies to the divorce process. If you’re planning on filing for divorce, our advice is to educate yourself on California’s divorce laws as they pertain to child custody and support, spousal support, asset and debt division.

To help shorten the learning curve, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers about a California divorce. For further information, we invite you to contact our firm directly to schedule a free consultation with an experienced and compassionate member of our legal team.

1. Is California an equitable division state?
No, it is not. California is one of a handful of states, including Nevada and Texas among others that follows the community property model of distribution. Under California’s community property law, divorcing spouses are entitled to half of the marital property acquired during the course of the marriage.

2. Is spousal support automatic in a CA divorce?
Spousal support is not automatically awarded in a California divorce; it is awarded on a case-by-case basis. If the lower-earning spouse is requesting spousal support and the higher-earning spouse does not want to pay it, a judge will have to decide whether or not support should be awarded.

If spousal support is awarded by a judge, it’s typically awarded for one-half the length of the marriage, unless the marriage lasted 10 or more years. In the case of a long-term marriage (one lasting at least 10 years), spousal support may be set without an end date, but it is subject to modification or termination at a later date depending on the circumstances.

3. Does cheating bar a spouse from receiving alimony?
California is a no-fault divorce state. This means that a judge will not be interested in hearing evidence of adultery, and an affair will not terminate an unfaithful spouse’s right to alimony, otherwise known as spousal support.

4. Can cheating affect child custody?
Cheating does not normally affect child custody; however, in some egregious (severe) cases, it can have an effect on custody. For example, if while married, a woman left her children home alone overnight repeatedly (while her husband was away on business or working a late shift) so she could stay at her boyfriend’s house, this could sway a judge to give primary custody of the children to the father. Essentially, if a cheating spouse neglected their children or put their safety at risk to have an affair, it could affect child custody decisions.

5. How long do I have to pay child support for?
In California, non-custodial parents pay child support until their children turn 18 or graduate high school, whichever happens later.

6. What if I don’t pay child support?
If you are ordered to pay child support and you fall behind, several bad things can happen: 1) your driver’s license can be suspended, 2) your wages can be garnished, 3) your bank account can be levied, 4) you could be denied a U.S. passport, 5) your tax refund can be intercepted, and 6) you could lose any lottery winnings, etc.

We hope this list of FAQs answers some of your questions about divorce. To learn more about the divorce process in San Diego, contact Claery & Hammond, LLP today!