Getting a divorce in the State of California can be as simple as filing a few forms, or as complex as a long, drawn-out court battle costing literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Unless you are going for an annulment or summary dissolution, hiring a competent divorce attorney is clearly your first step.  Your attorney will help you with the rest.  Before attempting to file for divorce in California, however, there are a few basic things to consider.

Establishing Legal Residency

One of the divorcing parties must have been a legal resident of the State of California for a period of at least six months in order to file for divorce within the state.  If neither one of you meets this requirement, you may want to hold off until you do, or else file for divorce in the state where you are a legal resident.  You will also need to have been a resident of the county in which you intend to file for at least three months.

The California Department of Justice uses the California State Board of Equalization’s definition of legal residency, as that being established by domicile, “the place where an individual has his or her true, fixed, permanent home and principal establishment,” also “the one location with which, for legal purposes, a person is considered to have the most settled and permanent connection.”

Grounds for Divorce

It is not a requirement to establish that a spouse is unfaithful, abusive or anything of the sort in order to get a divorce in California.  There are two basic grounds for divorce in the state: irreconcilable differences and insanity.  The former means that the marriage is irreparably broken and cannot be repaired through counseling or any other means.  The latter must be diagnosed and affirmed by an appropriate physician, and is rarely used as grounds for divorce – although more would probably use it were the requirements not so stringent.

Award of Alimony or Spousal Support

Alimony or spousal support is one of the areas of greatest contention in a divorce settlement.  There have been many famous divorce suits and even “palimony” suits wherein great sums were awarded, causing a great deal of alarm to many wealthy men throughout the state.  These notorious cases are the result of legal gymnastics and should be seen as an exception.

California family law provides a specific formula in order to make a determination whether alimony should be paid and, if so, how much.  Factors that are taken into account are the standard of living the married couple enjoyed, net income of each of the spouses and whether or not they can maintain that standard of living on their own.  Also considered is length of the marriage, the amount of financial support contributed by each of the spouses during that time, as well as any documented evidence of domestic violence.  A couple may agree on an amount of spousal support, or it may need to be determined by the family law judge adjudicating the case.

In summary, filing for divorce in California can be as simple as the two parties determine to make it.  If there is a significant amount of money involved and the parties are not in agreement, however, retaining a competent attorney is a must to ensure your rights are well represented.

Learn more about divorce here.