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What Is a Wife Entitled to in a Divorce in California?

By Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP | Apr 15, 2023

One of the biggest reasons couples delay getting a divorce even when they know it’s the right decision is fear of navigating the legal maze. It can be extremely time-consuming and hard to understand, especially if the divorce is highly contentious. Different California rules govern how a divorce should be handled, which can be guided by the help of an Orange County Divorce Lawyer licensed to practice in the golden state. Understanding how the state handles divorces and the role a divorce attorney can play in your separation can alleviate some of the pain points that most couples typically fear and help a wife understand what she may be entitled to versus her spouse.

Community Property State

California is considered to be a community property state. This is important to understand when divorcing because it influences the nature of dividing property and assets as both parties move on to their individual lives. Under a community property state, everything is considered joint property and is split equally. For example, it does not matter if only one spouse paid the downpayment on a house and was keeping up with the mortgage. The other partner who was living in the house also will receive half of that property’s value. The only exclusions that a community property state does not include are any gifts received during the marriage or any inheritances from family or friends.

Spousal Support

If a wife made less money than her spouse during the marriage, then it is very likely she will be entitled to some form of spousal support after the divorce. This program is intended to make sure that a lower-income spouse can maintain a similar lifestyle standard they have grown accustomed to throughout the marriage until they can support themselves independently. Gender does not have any role in this decision. It all rests on the annual income. If the wife was making the majority of the household income, they would be ordered to pay the spousal support themselves.

Child Custody and Support

If a wife was a good parent during the marriage and there are no indications that they were abusive to their partner or children, then they may be entitled to a child custody arrangement and potentially child support. Child custody contains the legal and physical responsibility of raising a child, which can be split into a joint custody arrangement where both parents are deemed still fit for parenting and have the right to share custody.

A joint custody arrangement is the preference of California courts, as they want to minimize the amount of trauma a child may already be experiencing as they grapple with the fact that their family unit is physically splitting up. However, the priority will always be the health and safety of a child. If there is any evidence that either parent poses a risk to keep a child happy and safe, there will be legal consequences such as restricted access or even full custody for the parent deemed fit and responsible.


Q: How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get 50% of Everything in a California Divorce?

A: Many are surprised to learn that there is no minimum amount of time required for a marriage to exist to receive half of the assets in a divorce. This is the nature of a community property state. The law does not want to encourage incompatible people to stay in what could be a dangerous situation just to wait out a specific date when they could split everything. If you want to protect yourself from having to split assets directly down the middle, you and your spouse should work with an attorney on a prenuptial agreement before getting married. This can make you feel more confident in keeping what matters to you regardless if the marriage lasts forever or only a few years.

Q: Can a Wife Get Half of Her Husband’s Retirement in a California Divorce?

A: There are no limitations to acquiring some of a retirement account in a community property state like California. Typically, a wife will only be entitled to the amount of retirement that was saved up during the marriage and not anything that was saved up beforehand. Determining the exact amount that a wife can earn will rest on the findings from a family law attorney after they analyze the full breadth of both parties’ assets and how things will be split. The only thing that can protect a husband’s retirement account from a divorce in a community property state is a prenuptial agreement that was signed by both parties before marriage that indicates the husband will keep it all.

Q: How Can You Split a Family Home in a Community Property Divorce?

A: Because a home is split evenly and both individuals are not going to share the house, there are a few different ways to split the value of the home. The first is the most straightforward process, which is to sell the home and split the proceeds. However, sometimes one spouse does not want to part ways with the home. This is especially true in scenarios where children are involved, and the parent does not want to remove them from a space they have grown comfortable with and feel safe in. In this situation, the other parent can buy out the other individual’s portion of the house and potentially refinance it into their mortgage. This allows the parent who is moving out to receive money for their portion of the house while the other parent’s portion of the house remains in the equity of the home.

Q: How Does Dividing Debt Work?

A: Just like splitting assets that are financially advantageous, such as a home, a couple also must split the debts they incurred during the marriage down the middle. This includes any credit card debt that they racked up or even an educational loan for their child to attend private school or college. Considerations are made to the financial well-being of both individuals when they are on their own after the divorce. If one of the spouses who makes less money now has more debt to pay than they did during the marriage, the alimony payments can help to offset that burden.

Contact Quinn Dworakowski Family Law Attorneys Today

If you are about to enter a divorce and want more clarity over what you are entitled to, contact Quinn Dworakowski Family Law Attorneys. We have been helping people divorce in California as peacefully as possible over the years and would love to extend our services to you and your family to keep everyone secure and safe.

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