California Divorce Laws – All You Need to Know

Every state has varying laws on how to get a valid divorce. If you’re looking to get divorced in California, it’s a smart idea to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations that you’ll have to follow when doing so and think about hiring an expert divorce attorney in Riverside, CA.

Here’s what you should know about filing for divorce in California and how the process works.

California Divorce Laws—The Basics

California doesn’t have a lot of requirements for filing for divorce. The basic guidelines for divorce include:

Legal Grounds for Divorce

California is a “no-fault” state for divorce. This means that a spouse does not have to justify or have a legal reason for why they are filing for divorce in the state. In most divorce cases in California, couples claim “irreconcilable differences,” meaning that they are unable to get along and ultimately want to dissolve the marriage because they don’t see the potential for fixing it.

Residency Requirements

To be eligible for a divorce in California, one or both spouses must meet the residency requirements of the state. It is required that at least one of the spouses has been living in the state of California for at least 6 months before a divorce can be initiated. In addition to the 6-month requirement, California also states that one spouse must have resided for a minimum of 3 months in the county they wish to file.

Filing for Divorce in California

While filing for divorce can seem daunting to anyone thinking of going through it, knowing the steps of the process ahead of time can help it seem much less intimidating. To initiate a divorce in California, you must:

  1. File Your Petition and Pay Fee Before filing your petition, you should first ensure that you meet the requirements for a divorce in California. Then you can go to your local court to file a petition. In this petition, you will have to detail aspects such as your financial situation, assets, and reasoning for divorce—which in most cases are irreconcilable differences. To file, you’ll have to pay a fee between $435 and $450.
  2. Serve Your Spouse After filing your petition, you must then serve your spouse in one of the legally approved methods given by the state of California. You can either serve them a copy of your petition through the mail or through an approved third party. Eligible third parties that can serve your spouse include your county sheriff, a professional process server, or an adult over the age of 18 that is not involved in your divorce, such as a coworker. After being served, your spouse will have 30 days to sign the papers.
  3. Come to Agreements If your divorce is uncontested and you and your spouse both agree on the terms set, you can file for an uncontested divorce and move on to have the process finalized. If your spouse does not sign the petition within the allotted 30 days, the court may take over the process and they may not have a say in certain matters of the divorce. If your divorce is contested, this part of the process may take a bit longer as you will have to settle any disagreements in court.
  4. Receive Final Judgment Once all aspects of the divorce have been addressed and decisions have been made, a judge will first go over all of the decisions made and ensure everything was done legally and then move on to make a final judgment. Once they have made their final judgment, your divorce will enter its end stages.

The Main Aspects of a Divorce in California

Every divorce includes a wide range of family law details that need to be addressed before it can be finalized, including:


Alimony is a payment made from one spouse to the other during the divorce process or after. Spousal support is implemented if one spouse can prove they need financial assistance to continue to live comfortably after they separate from their partner, but it is not required in every California divorce.

Child Support and Custody

Many parents struggle to come to agreements on custody, which can make the process more complicated. After determining custody in a divorce, you must also address child support. If one parent has primary custody, the noncustodial parent will be required to make child support payments to ensure their children are still taken care of. The amount paid will be based on the number of children, their ages, and the incomes of both spouses.

Property Division

Because California is a community property state, each spouse is entitled to a fair share of the property when it is divided. During the property division process, it’s important to make sure marital and separate properties are identified so they can be properly distributed.

FAQs About California Divorce Laws

How Long do You Have to be Married to Get Half of Everything in California?

The length of your marriage does not affect what you are entitled to when you are divorced. Because California is a community property state, whatever is acquired during the marriage is equally owned by each partner. Meaning that if the marriage was only a few months, the property split will only be from that period of time.

How Is Child Custody Determined?

Spouses can either work together to come to an agreement on child custody or it can go to the local court for a final decision if they cannot agree.

What Is the Wife Entitled to in a Divorce in California?

A wife is entitled to the same amount of property and assets as their husband in a California divorce because it is a community property state.

What Are the Basic Laws Regarding Divorce in California?

Because California is a no-fault divorce state, the only requirements you must meet are the residency requirements in order to file for divorce.

If you are thinking about filing for divorce in California, our family law attorneys at the Najera Law Group, P.C., are prepared to help you through the process. To learn more about our team and the divorce services we provide, contact us today.



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