Frequently Asked Questions

Based in Marin County and serving the entire Bay Area, the Law Offices of Ann Riley provide family law advice and representation in divorce, property division, custody, support, and related matters. We offer the following answers to frequently asked questions as a resource for our clients and others seeking general information about divorce in California.

How do I start a divorce?

The divorce process begins when one spouse files a Petition for Dissolution with a California court. Alternately, the spouses may file a Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution if: (1) the marriage was for less than five years and has produced no children, and (2) the spouses have limited assets and obligations and agree on all the terms of the divorce.

How long will it take to get divorced?

If the spouses can reach agreement on the issues of their divorce on their own or through mediation, the divorce can be completed relatively quickly. Any issue that cannot be resolved by the spouses will have to be litigated in court; as the number of issues to be litigated increases, so too does the length of time the divorce will take.

Marital status generally does not terminate until all issues in the divorce have been resolved and six months and one day have passed since the Summons and Petition were served by one party on the other party. Thus, even if all issues in the divorce are resolved by the spouses after three months, the divorce will not be considered final until six months and one day have passed since the Summons and Petition were served. If the issues of divorce have not been resolved within six months and a day, the spouses may petition to bifurcate the case, allowing their marital status to be terminated even though the case has not yet concluded.

How is child support calculated?

Child support is generally calculated using DissoMaster software, which utilizes a formula dictated by the California Family Code. The calculation is based on net taxable income as well as custodial time share and child care expenses. An experienced family law attorney can help estimate the amount of child support that may be ordered.

What is separate property?

In California, all community property is divided equally between the spouses at divorce, while separate property is not. Thus, at divorce, whether property is classified as community or separate property will have a significant effect on the way that property is distributed.

Generally speaking, community property is all property that was acquired by either spouse during the marriage, except for property that was acquired by one spouse as a gift, bequest, or inheritance. Separate property is everything that does not fall under the definition of community property, and generally includes:

  • Property acquired by one spouse prior to the marriage; and
  • Property acquired by one spouse during the marriage via gift, bequest, or inheritance.

An experienced divorce lawyer can help with determining how property should be classified.

How long does spousal support last?

It is a goal of the family court for both spouses to ultimately become self-supporting. Generally, if the marriage lasted less than ten years, the court may choose to order spousal support to last for half the length of the marriage. If the marriage was for more than ten years, the court may order support to initially last for half the length of the marriage, with the idea that the issue will be reviewed again at a later time, at which point the order may be extended.