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If California is a 50/50 custody and property no-fault divorce state, why should I get a lawyer?

San Diego, CA |

My husband wants a divorce. He has done horrible things, but he is a good dad. I didn't want this and I don't want my children only half time. He has accrued tremendous debt and had credit cards I didn't even know about. Everyone tells me to find a lawyer, but everything I read is that it will be 50/50 no matter what.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. The court will do what the court believes is "in the best interests of the child"; that's the guiding principle and mandate in California courtrooms. "50/50 no matter what" is INCORRECT. Also, in practice most custody/visitation plans are NOT 50/50.


  2. In addition to Michael's good advice, while California is a community property state, all that means is that each of you should end up with a combination of assets and debts equal to the same amount as the other of you. That says nothing about whether you will receive a particular asset or a particular debt, or whether you will receive 95% of the debt balanced out by 95% of the assets and he'll receive only 5% of each. It also doesn't address the value of any of the assets (you may want the Toyota and he says it's worth $100,000. Would you agree to pay him $50,000 to keep it?)

    This also doesn't address the issue of child or spousal support. While child support is based on a relatively standard formula (assuming everyone agrees on each other's incomes), spousal support is a lot more discretionary for the court, especially long-term support.

    At a minimum you would be well-advised to pay the money to sit down with a family law attorney to understand what you potentially gain and risk in each category that is relevant to your situation.


  3. My practice is criminal defense, but in addition to the answers given by other attorneys, I hope you don't rely on "everything you've read" because it's not correct.

    "No fault" just means that the court doesn't have to figure out why the marriage isn't working out - the "irreconcilable differences" is the grounds for divorce. Essentially, it says "it just isn't working out and it won't work out."

    California is a community property state - what you may be referring to as a 50/50 state. 50/50 isn't really correct - there are many factors in play about what assets, income, and property are "community" and what are "separate." That can make a huge difference in who gets what property and what debt. Don't just assume everything is split 50/50.

    When it comes to the children - the courts will have to decide where is best for the children to live, then decide who gets what rights to the children - it matters in child support as well. Don't just think 50/50. Talk with a family lawyer, especially when kids are involved.

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