California Family Law Overview
California family law is complex, and the legal system can be difficult to navigate. Family law covers many areas, including divorce, child support, child custody, alimony (i.e. spousal support), and marital property distribution. These issues can touch upon the most important aspects of your life and legal disputes related to them can be acrimonious and difficult to resolve without the assistance of an attorney. There are some key steps to take when a divorce is on the horizon.
If you are currently involved in a dispute related to family law, you need an experienced family law attorney on your side representing you throughout your case. Our experienced Los Angeles family law attorneys can assist you at every stage of your case and help to bring about a favorable resolution of disputed issues.
Divorce in California
California is a ‘no-fault’ divorce state. This means that a court may grant a divorce based upon ‘irreconcilable differences,’ as opposed to on fault grounds such as infidelity or abandonment. California law imposes a six-month mandatory waiting period in divorce cases, and a divorce decree cannot be signed at any time before the expiration of that six-month period. See related information: Divorce and Immigration Status.
Child Support and Alimony
California courts use child support guidelines to determine a non-custodial parent’s child support obligation. Courts can deviate from these guidelines on a case-by-case basis, depending upon the circumstances. As a result, if you are involved in a child support dispute, you should retain legal counsel to ensure that your case is resolved as favorably as possible.
A California court may also award alimony (or spousal support) under certain circumstances. In making a decision in regard to alimony, courts consider a variety of factors, including the following:
- The earning capacity of each spouse and the standard of living that was established during the marriage or partnership
- The length of the marriage or domestic partnership
- Whether there was any domestic violence during the marriage
- The age and health of the parties
- The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living
- The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party
Child Custody and Visitation
When the parties to a divorce case have minor children, a divorce decree will make provisions for legal and physical custody of the parties’ children. Either type of custody may be joint (shared) or sole. All custody and visitation decisions are based upon the best interest of the child standard. When determining the best interests of the child, some of the factors a court may consider include the following:
- The child’s age
- If old enough to express a meaningful preference, the preference of the child
- The relationship of the child’s parents and any other persons who may significantly affect the child’s welfare
- The capacity of each parent to cooperate in childcare
- Any history of domestic violence
- The stability of any proposed living arrangements for the child
- The effect on the child if one parent has sole authority over the child’s upbringing
- The motivation of the parties involved and their capacities to give the child love, affection, and guidance
When one spouse has sole physical custody of the children, the other parent will normally be entitled to reasonable visitation rights. Child custody and visitation orders may be modified if one of the following events occurs:
- One parent moves out-of-state or somewhere else far away
- The needs of the children change, including educational, extra-curricular, and health needs
- One of the party’s financial circumstances changes significantly
Distribution of Community Property and Responsibility for Community Debts
When parties acquire high-value assets and debts over the course of their marriage, distribution of the parties’ community property and responsibility for community debts usually becomes an issue. Community property and community debt refers to assets and debts acquired by one or both parties over the course of their marriage. Under California law, each spouse owns 50% of the spouses’ community property and 50% of the spouses’ community debt.
Gifts or inheritances acquired by one spouse during the marriage – or assets acquired before the marriage – are considered individual property, as opposed to community property.
The parties can agree on how to distribute community property themselves. However, as with child support, custody, visitation, and alimony, if the parties cannot agree about the way that their property will be divided themselves, then the court will decide the issue for them.
Contact a Los Angeles Family Law Attorney
Los Angeles family law attorneys at Furman & Zavatsky provide experienced and knowledgeable representation to clients throughout the Greater Los Angeles area in all aspects of family law. We dedicate our extensive resources and indepth knowledge to helping you reach the best outcome for your case. Family Law is one of the most complex areas of law. Having the right family law attorney on your side is crucial to your success.
Navigating the California family court system and resolving disputed family law issues can be challenging, and our experienced Los Angeles family law attorneys are here to assist you with your case.
To schedule a free case evaluation with one of our Los Angeles family law lawyers, contact us today at 818-528-3471.