If you’re looking to marry, start a family, register a newborn birth certificate, get a divorce or are confronted with another family-related matter, the California Family Code will come into the picture. It is the set of laws that applies to all cases in the Family Court, and one of 29 legal codes enacted by the California State Legislature.

Examples of the cases the California Family Code governs are:

  • Matters pertaining to marriage, including the rights and obligations during marriage
  • Divorce, legal separation, annulment, and dissolution
  • Division of property
  • Child and spousal support
  • Custody of minors regarding the California birth certificate
  • Domestic violence
  • Determination of paternity after the issuance of a birth certificate
  • Foster care placement
  • Adoption, and more

Apart from the California Family Code, there are other codes that govern family law cases. They include the Evidence Code, Code of Civil Procedure, Business and Professions Code, and Probate Code. The California Family Code is the most important.

A look at some family law statutes under the California Family Code

The California Family Code consists of 20 divisions. Each division has chapters and/or articles and/or parts:

DIVISION 1. Preliminary provisions and definitions 

DIVISION 2. General Provisions 

DIVISION 2.5. Domestic Partner Registration 

DIVISION 3. Marriage 

DIVISION 4. Rights and Obligations During Marriage 

DIVISION 5. Conciliation Proceedings 

DIVISION 6. Nullity, Dissolution, and Legal Separation 

DIVISION 7. Division of Property 

DIVISION 8. Custody of Children 

DIVISION 9. Support 

DIVISION 10. Prevention of Domestic Violence 

DIVISION 11. Minors

DIVISION 12. Parent and child relationship 

DIVISION 13. Adoption 

DIVISION 14. Family law facilitator act 

DIVISION 17. Support services 

DIVISION 20. Pilot projects 

There’s an exhaustive body of laws governing family law matters in California. A divorce attorney will be conversant with them and suggest the best course of action for your case.

In this post, we take you through a variety of family codes that may apply to your domestic situation.

Date of separation – Family Code 70

Have an issue related to the date of separation? The date of separation is important as it affects asset distribution, child support payments, spousal support payments, and other matters. According to Code 70, there must be a complete and final break in the marital relationship, which occurs when two conditions are met:

  • One spouse must have expressed to the other his/her intent to end the marriage
  • That spouse’s intent must be consistent with his/her expressed intent to end the marriage

How is the date of separation determined? The court will consider whether the spouses are living separately, the extent of social interaction between them, financial situations like joint or separate tax filing, and even family events like holidays and vacations. And these are just some of the issues the court will consider in deciding the date of separation.

A divorce requires mental preparation from both spouses. The timing of the divorce involves many variables. You’re advised to seek the help of a California law attorney, a financial planner, and a therapist (if needed). You’ll be able to make smart decisions on your finances, firm decisions on your divorce matters, and move on quickly.

Quasi-community property – Family Codes 125, 912 and 63

This California family law code relates to quasi-community property. What is quasi-community property? For that, you must first be clear on what community property is. It is a legal term referring to the joint ownership of assets acquired by a couple during a marriage. Quasi property is the assets acquired during the marriage while living out of state that would have been considered ‘community property’ if acquired in California.

Family Code 125 explains what quasi-community property means. It is not the only code that deals with quasi-community property. Family Code 912 says that quasi-community property will be treated the same in all respects as community property. According to Family Code 63, ‘community estate’ includes both community property and quasi-community property.

California courts use these codes to determine how spousal assets should be split in a divorce. It comes into play when both you and your spouse relocated to California and are now seeking a divorce. It would not apply if one of you moved to California while the other stayed in their home state.

Spousal support – Sections 4320-4326 and 4330-4339

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is the financial assistance awarded to one of the former spouses in a divorce. It is separate from division of marital property. In California, there are two types of spousal support:

Temporary support: The court grants temporary support during divorce proceedings. A judge will determine whether one spouse is liable to pay support to another, with the goal of maintaining both parties’ standard of living while their case is being resolved. A common formula is to identify the higher earner, take 40% of their income, subtract 50% of the lower earner’s income, and require the higher earner to pay the difference.

Say one spouse earns $10,000 a month; 40% of that is $4,000. The other earns $2,000 a month, and 50% of this amount is $1,000. The court may order the first spouse to pay $3,000 ($4000 – $1000) during the divorce proceedings. So, the spouse who earns lesser would have $5,000 a month during the divorce to support themselves, including moving out of the marital home. 

Rehabilitative support: The judge may determine that support is required beyond the duration of the divorce proceedings, in what’s known as rehabilitative support. It will continue for the length of time necessary for the lower-earning spouse to gain the education and experience needed to support himself/herself. The judge will monitor the spouse’ progress towards supporting himself/herself and order a step-down of payments over time. The judge will also hear requests by either former spouse to end or modify support. 

With this basic information, now let us take a look at the sections of the California Family Code that deal with spousal support.

Section 4320: Factors courts must consider when determining spousal support orders

The judge must look at certain factors when determining whether to issue a spousal support order, and the amount and duration of the order:

  • Both spouses’ earning capacity

This includes each party’s individual earning capacity, marketable skills and current relative job market, and the need to care for any dependent children. As per Section 4331, the court may require either party to undergo a vocational evaluation to reach a fair assessment. 

  • The contributions of the supported spouse towards the supporting spouse’s career or education

The spouse who made a bigger contribution to their partner’s career during the marriage at a cost to himself/herself may receive a large payment. 

  • Both spouses’ debts and assets and the financial ability of the supporting party to pay 

According to Section 4338, spousal support shall be awarded first from the community property, followed by the quasi-community property, and then the separate property of the supporting spouse

  • Both spouses’ needs and standard of living in the marriage

Section 4332 requires the court to make inquiries into the standard of living and other circumstances surrounding the marriage. 

  • The length of the marriage

Section 4336 deems marriages to be of a long duration if they lasted 10 years or longer. Such marriages are more likely to involve permanent orders.

  • Tax implications of support

The judge will consider the tax impacts of orders when determining the alimony amount. 

  • Spouses’ age and health

As health and age affect an individual’s ability to support themselves, the judge will consider these factors in determining how much the supporting spouse pays. An older or ill supporting spouse may be ordered to pay less while an older or sick supported spouse may receive a larger payment. 

  • The supported spouse’s intention to become self-sufficient

As per Section 4330, in determining a just length of an order, the court must consider the supported spouse’s intention to provide for himself/herself in a reasonable length of time. 

  • Balance of hardships

The court seeks to alleviate the economic hardship on the party entitled to receive spousal support. But it must also look for circumstances that prevent the supporting party from maintaining a normal standard of living. 

  • Any history of criminal convictions or domestic violence by the supported party

Sections 4342-4325 discuss this matter in detail. A rule under Section 4325 prohibits awarding spousal support to the spouse convicted of a domestic violence or criminal conviction for a misdemeanor within five years prior to filing for divorce proceedings. 

On the topic of domestic violence, it’s worth noting how California law treats marital misconduct in obtaining a divorce, and child support, child custody, debt division, and spousal support. Unlike other states, California does not allow separating spouses to file for divorce on fault-based grounds like infidelity or inhuman treatment. Evidence of such entered at trial may be rejected as irrelevant, but not always.

Marital misconduct can impact a divorce in California in the following ways:

  • In case of adultery, property division can be impacted if the cheating spouse wasted marital assets on an affair and it can be factually proven. If the adulterous spouse neglected his/her parenting duties to be with their romantic partner or carried on an affair openly in front of their children, child custody can be impacted. 
  • Domestic violence can have a bearing on child custody and spousal support. If it is proven that a spouse was abusive towards the other, he/she may lose out on the spousal support they were otherwise entitled to. If the parent was abusive, then the judge is unlikely to award him/her custody of the children. 
  • Another situation that can impact property division is when a spouse squanders money or gives it away in anticipation of a divorce. It will impact that spouse’s share of settlement. 

Sections 3011, 3020, 3040 – Determining the best interests of a child in a divorce proceeding

CA family codes 3011, 3020, and 3040 are used by family courts to make and modify child custody orders. The child’s best interest depends on their health and safety. The courts consider how well the parents can keep a livable home and meet the child’s basic needs. Domestic violence, drug or alcohol problems, and sexual abuse will be considered. 

Section 3011 – Welfare of the child

This is the root best interests statute in California family courts, which provides factors to consider in determining what custody and visitation orders are in a child’s best interests. It also creates a rebuttable presumption (something presumed to be true unless proven otherwise) against awarding custody to parents who have substance abuse problems. In other words, parents’ substance abuse is considered a serious matter impacting the safety and well-being of children. 

Section 3020 – Frequent and continuing contact

It is presumed to be in a child’s best interest to see both parents regularly except in cases involving abuse or substance abuse. The section reinforces Section 3011 in declaring that the chief concern of the State with regard to child custody is in ensuring the best interests of minor children. 

Section 3040 – Visitation schedules

The section grants the court and family broad discretion in choosing a parenting plan aligned to the child’s best interests. Section 3040(a) is used to award custody of a child to a guardian or step-parent. As per the section, the order of preference in granting custody to a child is as follows:

  • The parents of the child
  • If neither parent, then someone with whom the child has been staying in a wholesome environment
  • If to neither the parents nor someone with whom the child is living, then another individual who can provide adequate care to the child 

California family law is complex. Get legal help for the best results.

Navigating a family law matter is emotionally overwhelming. Juggling your life and feelings on the one hand and your court case on the other, can drain you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Divorce support groups can help you in your journey. We, at the Law Office of Heath L. Baker, can provide you with the education and legal strategies that ensure peace of mind and favorable outcomes. Our deep understanding of the California Family Code and experience in family law allows us to guide you correctly and compassionately. If you need us, schedule a meeting via phone, fax, or contact form.