Family law matters typically involve issues regarding division of assets and debts, child custody and visitation plans, and spousal and/or child support considerations.  The resources provided here, including links to frequently asked questions ("FAQs") are intended to aid you in your understanding of basic concepts regarding these general areas.  However, you should seek the advice of an attorney regarding your specific circumstance.

GENERAL FAMILY LAW PRINCIPLES

PROPERTY DIVISION

California is a community property state. This means that a marriage or the registration of a domestic partnership makes 2 people one 1 “community” in the eyes of the law.  This means that property the couple acquires during marriage/partnership is “community property.”  Similarly, debt that the couple acquires during the marriage/partnership also belongs to the “community debt.” 

The property and debts part of a divorce or legal separation is often so complicated and the cost of making a mistake is so high that you should talk to a lawyer before you file your papers, especially if you have anything of value (or if you have significant debt). Keep in mind you may not need to hire a lawyer to take on your entire divorce or legal separation, just the property and debt portion of your case.

Click on each topic to get the definitions you need to know in more detail:

CHILD CUSTODY/VISITATION & SUPPORT

A parenting plan, also called a "custody and visitation agreement" or a "time-share plan," is the parent's written agreement about how much time the child will spend with each parent, and how the parents will make decisions about the child's welfare and education. Mediation allows parents to craft a parenting plan that is appropriate to the best interests of their child.

When making orders regarding physical or legal custody or visitation of children, the Court's primary concern is to assure the health, safety, and welfare of the children. Court's further want to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents, and encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing, unless such contact would not be in the best interests of the child.

SPOUSAL/PARTNER SUPPORT

When a couple legally separates or divorces, the court may order 1 spouse or domestic partner to pay the other a certain amount of support money each month. This is called “spousal support” for married couples and “partner support” in domestic partnerships. It is sometimes also called “alimony.” 

Issues involving spousal or partner support are complex.  To better understand how long support may last, its affect on your taxes, payment obligations, and preparation of any court forms, you should consult and attorney.   

FAMILY LAW BENCH GUIDES

The Center for Judiciary Education and Research provides judicial officers are provided with "bench guides" on various areas of law.  The bench guides are summaries of the relevant law, including legal citations, explanations, insights, and factors the Judge may consider when hearing a particular matter.  Bench guides are an excellent source of information, but not predictive of how a Judge will rule since other considerations such as credibility of witnesses, admissibility of evidence, and/or oral arguments made at the hearing may also come into play. This material is available for your reference only, and you should consult with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstance.