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California Family Laws

California Family Laws

The family laws of California govern the legal rights and obligations of individuals in regards to their family relationships. The laws address issues related to marriage, divorce, child custody, support, adoption, and domestic violence. These laws are important for protecting the interests of family members and ensuring that justice is served in family disputes. This article provides a detailed overview of these laws, their recent updates, and their respective impacts.

Marriage Laws in California

Marriage is a legal commitment that comes with significant obligations and rights. In California, individuals must meet several requirements to legally get married. The first requirement is that both parties must be at least 18 years old or have the legal consent of their parents or guardians if they are minors. Additionally, both parties must not be closely related by blood or through marriage. Lastly, individuals must obtain a marriage license from their county clerk’s office. This license is valid for 90 days and must be signed by an authorized individual during the ceremony.

In 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 749, also known as the Workplace Civility Act. The act prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign an agreement that waives their right to make a discrimination or harassment claim against the employer. This law also applies to premarital agreements that waive an individual’s right to seek legal remedy for unjust treatment.

Divorce Laws in California

Divorce laws in California address the legal process of ending a marriage. The state is a no-fault divorce state, which means that individuals can seek divorce without any specific grounds. However, individuals must meet certain residency requirements. They must have lived in California for at least six months and in the county where they file for divorce for at least three months.

When determining the division of property in a divorce, California applies community property laws. This means that all property and debts acquired during the marriage are equally divided between parties. Any property acquired before marriage or after separation is considered separate property and not subject to division.

In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 1255, which seeks to address the issue of disputed paternity in divorce cases and provide a fair resolution. Before the bill, in the absence of any other legal challenge, a husband was presumed to be the father of a child born during the marriage. However, the new law allows a man to challenge paternity at any time within the first two years of a child’s life.

Child Custody and Support Laws in California

Child custody and support laws in California aim to protect the best interests of children during a divorce or separation. California courts may award joint or sole physical and legal custody based on the child’s best interests. Physical custody refers to where the child will live, whereas legal custody pertains to the parent’s right to make major decisions regarding the child’s welfare, education, and health.

Child support is also an essential aspect of California family laws. The state bases child support payments on a formula that considers the parents’ income, the child’s needs, and the timeshare each parent has with the child. The court may also consider other factors such as the child’s health and special needs when determining the child support amount.

In 2021, California approved Assembly Bill 1140, which modifies child support obligations and clarifies the existing laws. The bill addresses several issues, including the consideration of income tax changes, the evaluation of income when additional financial support is provided to another household, and the exclusion of incarceration as a voluntary act that can terminate child support.

Adoption Laws in California

Adoption is a legal process that involves the transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from one individual or couple to another. In California, the adoption process may be initiated by birth parents, individuals seeking to adopt a child, or an agency involved in the placement of children.

Adoption laws in California require that adoptive parents be at least 10 years older than the child they wish to adopt. Additionally, adoptive parents must undergo a background check, provide references, and demonstrate adequate financial stability to care for the child.

In 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed The Kin Care and Domestic Partnership Adoption Leave Act, which seeks to provide more equal leave rights to domestic partners and kin caregivers. The law requires that California employers who provide “baby bonding” leave or leave for the adoption or placement of a foster child also provide similar leave to domestic partners and kin caregivers.

Domestic Violence Laws in California

Domestic violence is a serious issue that affects many families. California has enacted several laws to protect individuals who are victims of domestic violence. California law defines domestic violence as abuse committed against an intimate partner or a family member.

Domestic violence may take different forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse. In California, domestic violence victims may seek a restraining order against the abuser. The restraining order prohibits the abuser from contacting the victim or coming near them.

In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-83-20, which seeks to address the increase in domestic violence cases during the COVID-19 pandemic. The order provides guidelines to law enforcement and other state agencies to ensure that domestic violence victims receive adequate protection and services during the pandemic.


California family laws address a wide range of issues related to marriage, divorce, child custody, support, adoption, and domestic violence. These laws are designed to protect the rights and interests of family members and ensure that justice is served in family disputes. Understanding these laws is crucial for anyone involved in a family relationship in California. This knowledge is especially important for those who are going through a divorce, seeking child custody or support, or dealing with domestic violence. With the ever-evolving updates and changes in California’s family laws, it is essential to stay informed on the current laws and consult with a qualified legal professional when needed.

A Quick Guide to California Family Law

Where can I find California Family Laws? 

If you are looking for a specific California family law, you can look under the official website of Legislative Counsel in California.  The website can be found at the following link.

Here you can find information on events around the state, bill information, new laws, and a complete list of CA law.  Click on the “California Law” tab at the bottom of the screen, and you will come to a screen that allows you to search for California family laws, as well as regulations in all other code under the state of CA.

You can search for a specific phrase within California family law, or you can simply click on the family code options and click search.  The next screen will bring you into contact with 20 different divisions of California family laws, and you will find a brief description of each division in the next section to help you with your search:

Division of California Family Law

The following divisions fall the entirety of California Family Laws:

1. Preliminary Provisions and Definitions- the division simply provides definitions and provisions for all other divisions.

2. General Provisions- this division discusses temporary restraining orders, attorneys’ fees, and more.

3. Domestic Partner Registration- this division (2.5) provides procedures for every stage of a domestic partnership.

4. Marriage- this division under California family laws provides procedures for a marriage license and the validity of marriage.

5. Rights and Obligations During Marriage- this division under California family law provides laws for the relation of husband and wife, as well as property rights during the marriage.

6. Conciliation Proceedings- this division applies all rules within family conciliation courts.

7. Nullity, Dissolution, and Legal Separation- this division under California family laws provides the majority of laws and procedures for the divorce and separation process.

8. Division of Property- this division under California family law provides all procedures and decisions of the court in property division.

9. Custody of Children-this division provides all procedures for child custody in a divorce or separation or divorce.

10. Support- this division provides guidelines for child support in part 2 and spousal support in part 3.  The section is very long and detailed and provides laws for enforcements, evading, and much more.

11. Prevention of Domestic Violence- this division of California family law discusses all procedures and laws, including protective orders, for domestic violence cases.

12. Minors- this section is also very long and discusses how all aspects of the minor’s care should be handled by parents.

13. Parent and Child Relationship- this division of California family laws provides paternity laws, and other procedures to determine the parent-child relationship.

14. Adoption- this division under California family laws provides all laws and procedures for adoptions in CA.

15. Family Law Facilitator Act- explains all conditions under this act in Section 10000-10015.

16. Support Services- this division under the California family laws provides all factors in a support dispute, support collection units, and more.

17. Family Law Pilot Projects- this division describes all regulations of certain pilot projects around the state of CA.