James T. Raetz, a family law attorney with offices in Los Angeles and Irvine, answers frequently asked questions about divorce in California. Note that the answers provided below are for general informational purposes only. Please consult an attorney regarding how the law applies to your particular circumstances.

My fiancé and I have been living together for the last few years. Does California recognize a common law marriage?

No. If you are living together without a marriage license or ceremony, you are not considered legally married in California.

However, if you and your partner lived in another state that recognized a common law marriage and you met the requirements for marriage there, you would need to get a divorce under California law if you are a resident here now.

My spouse says he or she won’t grant me a divorce. What can I do?

California is a no fault state where a divorce proceeds with or without consent of the other spouse. While a spouse can make the process difficult or lengthy, eventually the court will intervene and enter judgment for dissolution.

If the responding spouse does not answer the Petition for dissolution, as your attorney, we can move for default, and you will be divorced in as little as six months

My spouse and I were married outside of California. Can I get a divorce here?

No matter where the marriage ceremony took place, you can file for a divorce in California as long as you have been a resident of this State for at least six months and of the county of filing for at least three months.

I want to be divorced immediately. How long do I have to wait before I am divorced?

In California, there is a six-month waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. The six months starts from the date the Petition is served. It is the goal of the State of California that the six months be a cooling off period, so that couples do not rush to divorce. Even if parties reach an agreement and all formalities are completed soon after the Petition is filed and served, the date of dissolution will be entered at least six months out.

I want to get a divorce. What generally happens after a petition is filed?

After a Petition for divorce or legal separation is filed, the Petitioner has to serve the Petition and supporting documents upon his or her spouse. At the Law Offices of James T. Raetz, we prefer to serve Petitions discreetly via mail, but there are times when personal service is necessary. After service is complete, the Respondent has 30 days to respond. The Parties must then disclose all assets and debts to each other either voluntarily or through discovery.

In the meantime, we will turn our attention to issues that need immediate attention such as custody schedule, support, etc. These arrangements are temporary and are often negotiated. If the Parties agree, they sign a stipulation and submit it to the court for approval so that the terms are enforceable. If the other side is not willing to compromise, our firm files a motion on your behalf, seeking court intervention to obtain temporary orders regarding custody, support or anything else that needs immediate resolution.

After everything has been properly disclosed, and we have conducted all necessary due diligence on your behalf, we will try and reach a permanent agreement. If necessary, we will go to trial with issues that cannot be resolved amicably.

How is child support calculated?

Child support is calculated on a strict mathematical formula based upon percentage of custodial time, income of each parent, and other factors including any extraordinary needs of the children.

How is spousal support calculated?

While the court may use a mathematical formula as a guideline, the actual amount of spousal support depends on a number of factors that the court will weigh and assess.

What is a marriage of long duration and how does it affect spousal support?

A marriage of long duration is a marriage that last more than 10 years. If you have a marriage of long duration, you may be entitled to spousal support for an indefinite amount of time. For marriages lasting less than 10 years, the general rule is spousal support lasts one-half the term of the marriage. However, each situation is different.

What if I move out of our residence – do I lose my rights to the property?

No. Even if you move out, you retain your interest in the property. If you continue to contribute toward the mortgage and maintenance of the property after you have moved out, you may be entitled to credits and reimbursements.

My spouse wants full custody of the children – will he or she get it?

It is the policy of the courts to facilitate a relationship between children and parents. Each parent is generally entitled to 50% custody. Call our office today so that we can discuss this or any other issue with you in more detail and specific to your unique circumstances.