How Do California Divorce Laws Compare to Other States?


California recently made Forbes list of the “7 Worst States to Get a Divorce” due to its $395 filing fee and the fact that it is the only state in the U.S. requiring a six month cooling off period after filing. If you’re thinking about filing for a divorce in Pasadena, you may be wondering what this means for you.

It is true that California’s filing fee is higher than most other states, but longtime residents realize that California's cost of living is generally higher as well. If you can’t afford to pay the filing fee for your divorce, you are able to ask for a fee waiver. To qualify, you need to be receiving public benefits like Medi-Cal or CalFresh, have a household income that is less than the amounts listed on Form FW-001 in item 5b, or have the court find that you do not have enough income to pay for basic household needs and the court fees.

There is no way to avoid the six-month cooling-off period before your divorce is finalized. Even if you and your spouse are in total agreement about the division of assets, child custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support, the waiting period is still a state requirement. The purpose of the waiting period is to allow you and your spouse the opportunity for reconciliation, since many people do change their mind about ending their marriage once they've had time to think about the ramifications of their decision.

One factor that wasn't mentioned in the Forbes list is that California is a community property state, as is Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In California, community property laws require that all marital assets be divided equally in the event of a divorce. This includes income from employment, as well as items purchased with that income, even if one spouse did not work outside the home or only worked part-time. If you are the lower earning spouse, this is an important benefit.

If you don’t believe that California's divorce laws are favorable to your case and you’re already thinking about relocating after your divorce, you may want to move first and file once you’ve met your new state’s residency requirements. Every state requires that you establish residency before filing for divorce. California requires that you be a resident for at least six months, but other states have different residency requirements. New York requires a one-year minimum residency, but Nevada requires you be a resident for just six weeks before filing for divorce. Moving to another state can present problems with child custody and visitation, however, so this issue should be discussed in greater detail with a skilled attorney.

How Can We Help?

If you are in need of legal representation during your divorce, please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at Our Pasadena divorce law firm is well equipped to handle a variety of divorce-related concerns and to advocate for your interests throughout the divorce process.