What is a dissolution and why can’t California just call it a divorce?

At some point in the 1970s or 1980s, California decided that the word “divorce” was too casual, so it switched to the term “dissolution” for the breakup of a marriage.  Regardless of what you call it, however, every dissolution has several common issues.  Not every divorce is identical, of course, and your case may not include some of these issues (for example, if you do not have children), but many do.

In every divorce (or dissolution) case, the court has a universe of issues it may resolve. The issues are child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, property and debt division, attorney fees, and status. Here is an overview of each:

There are two aspects of the non-financial issues with your child/ren: custody and visitation (or parenting time). There is physical and legal custody, and you can have joint custody or sole custody (for one parent). Parenting plans vary like personalities. Some parents share parenting time equally and fluidly with few specifics written down. Some parents have to have every detail recorded in excruciating detail. There are some “standard” parenting plans, but by no means are they uniform.

Child and spousal support are also issues in a divorce case. Support is calculated using a software program adopted by the State of California. You can find it for free here: Support Calculations. Permanent, or long-term, spousal support is calculated using a variety of qualitative factors not necessarily related to the software, however.

The court will also divide all property and debt you and your spouse acquired during your marriage. This includes any real property, or homes, as well as personal property, vehicles, bank and stock accounts, 401Ks and pension/retirement accounts, and any and all debt. California law provides for EQUAL division of all property and debt incurred during the marriage.

The court can and will also resolve the issue of attorney fees, particularly if the incomes of the spouses are very different. If one spouse makes the majority of the money in the household, the court will likely order that spouse to pay the majority of the attorney fees.

Finally, there is the issue of your status. Your status is whether you are divorced or single. You can separate, or bifurcate, the issue of your status and become divorced if you feel your case is taking too long. Divorce cases can last several years. Most often, your status is dissolved, making you a single person, at the resolution of your case. The earliest this can happen is six months and one day from the time the Petition was served on the Respondent.

Property and debt division in California divorce

California law provides for an EQUAL division of any and all property and debt acquired during the time of your marriage. Exceptions to this are inheritances, which are separate, as well as student loans, which are separate debts. Note that if you are unaware of the acquisition of the property or debt, then this does NOT exempt you from the equal division. So, this means that if your spouse acquired credit card debt in the amount of thousands of dollars that you knew nothing about, you still have to share the payment of that debt with your spouse at divorce.

Also, note that title to the property is not the relevant issue, but rather the time you acquired the property. If you have a car, for example, that you bought while you were married but only put the husband’s name on it, then that car is still community property and subject to equal division.

Finally, “equal division” does not mean that we are dividing each and every asset, one by one. What we’re doing, rather, is dividing the value of your property. For example, if you have a house with equity in the amount of $100,000 and the wife has a community property pension in the amount of $100,000, then the husband can take the house in exchange for giving up any right he has to his wife’s pension. Generally, if one spouse can afford to keep an asset, then the court will not order its sale.

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Dissolution: issues in a California divorce

In every divorce (or dissolution) case, the court has a universe of issues it may resolve. The issues are common to most cases in that most cases have all of them, but some omit a couple. The issues are child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, property and debt division, attorney fees, and status. We’ll examine each of these in detail, but here’s an overview:

There are two aspects of the non-financial issues with your child (and I say child with the understanding that many folks have more than one child): custody and visitation (or parenting time). There is physical and legal custody, and you can have joint custody or sole custody (for one parent). Parenting plans vary like personalities. Some parents share parenting time equally and fluidly with few specifics written down. Some parents have to have every detail recorded in excruciating detail. There are some “standard” parenting plans, but by no means are they uniform.

Child and spousal support are also issues in a divorce case. Support is calculated using a software program adopted by the State of California. You can find it for free here: Support Calculations. Permanent, or long-term, spousal support is calculated using a variety of qualitative factors not necessarily related to the software, however.

The court will also divide all property and debt you and your spouse acquired during your marriage. This includes any real property, or homes, as well as personal property, vehicles, bank and stock accounts, 401Ks and pension/retirement accounts, and any and all debt. California law provides for EQUAL division of all property and debt.

The court can and will also resolve the issue of attorney fees, particularly if the incomes of the spouses are very different. If one spouse makes the majority of the money in the household, the court will likely order that spouse to pay the majority of the attorney fees.

Finally, there is the issue of your status. Your status is whether you are divorced or single. You can separate, or bifurcate, the issue of your status and become divorced if you feel your case is taking too long. Divorce cases can last several years. Most often, your status is dissolved, making you a single person, at the resolution of your case. The earliest this can happen is six months and one day from the time the Petition was served on the Respondent.

Ready to make an appointment & get more information specific to you and your case? Click here to access our appointment scheduling calendar.

Dividing a business in California divorce

When one spouse has a small business, it can become a difficult issue to divide at divorce.  Everything the couple acquires during the marriage is community property, so if the business was started after the marriage, then the business is community property and must be divided in divorce.  Generally this means that the business is valued, and the spouse working in the business buys out the interest of the other spouse.  It is the value of the business that is generally the point of contention in the divorce.  Further complicating things is when the business was started before the marriage and continued during the marriage, as the amount of growth in the business during the time of the marriage must be valued and divided – with the same attendant conflicts over how to determine this value.

Often, it is the non-working spouse (by non-working, I mean not working in the business. This spouse may very well be working, but not as an owner of the business in question) who believes that the business is worth a great deal more than the working spouse thinks.  Since there are dozens of ways to value a business, this can  become a war of the experts in divorce court.  In addition, a business can be derailed by the distraction of the divorce as well as the ultimate financial payout.

There are ways to avoid this, but generally they involve planning.  First, you can create a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial  agreement that provides for the division of the business in the event of divorce, and at least can specify how the business will be valued so that this is an argument you can avoid.  Life insurance can be used as a protection against both the death of the working spouse or in the event of a divorce.  In business, we buy insurance to protect injuries on our property, for our employees, and for our potential legal liability, but forget that we may need insurance in case we are unable to work or are in the process of divorce.

Every small business owner should take steps to protect themselves, their business and their family in the case of divorce or death.  A financial advisor, divorce and estate planning attorney can help.

Property and debt division in California divorce

California law provides for an EQUAL division of any and all property and debt acquired during the time of your marriage. Exceptions to this are inheritances, which are separate assets, as well as student loans, which are separate debts. Note that if you are unaware of the acquisition of the property or debt, then this does NOT exempt you from the equal division. So, this means that if your spouse acquired credit card debt in the amount of thousands of dollars that you knew nothing about, you still have to share the payment of that debt with your spouse at divorce.

Also, note that title to the property is not the relevant issue, but rather the time you acquired the property. If you have a car, for example, that you bought while you were married but only put one spouse’s name on it, then that car is still community property and subject to equal division.

Finally, “equal division” does not mean that we are dividing each and every asset, one by one. What we’re doing, rather, is dividing the value of your property. For example, if you have a house with equity in the amount of $100,000 and the wife has a community property pension in the amount of $100,000, then the husband can take the house in exchange for giving up any right he has to his wife’s pension. Generally, if one spouse can afford to keep an asset, then the court will not order its sale over objection.

Property and debt division in California divorce

California law provides for an EQUAL division of any and all property and debt acquired during the time of your marriage. Exceptions to this are inheritances, which are separate, as well as student loans, which are separate debts. Note that if you are unaware of the acquisition of the property or debt, then this does NOT exempt you from the equal division. So, this means that if your spouse acquired credit card debt in the amount of thousands of dollars that you knew nothing about, you still have to share the payment of that debt with your spouse at divorce.

Also, note that title to the property is not the relevant issue, but rather the time you acquired the property. If you have a car, for example, that you bought while you were married but only put the husband’s name on it, then that car is still community property and subject to equal division.

Finally, “equal division” does not mean that we are dividing each and every asset, one by one. What we’re doing, rather, is dividing the value of your property. For example, if you have a house with equity in the amount of $100,000 and the wife has a community property pension in the amount of $100,000, then the husband can take the house in exchange for giving up any right he has to his wife’s pension. Generally, if one spouse can afford to keep an asset, then the court will not order its sale.