4 Issues Addressed in a Divorce Decree

The order that ends a divorce proceeding goes by many names — divorce decree, order of dissolution, final order, and final judgment. Under California law, the dissolution order ends the marriage and restores you and your spouse to unmarried status. This means you can remarry without violating any criminal laws against bigamy or polygamy.

The dissolution order also resolves the legal relationship between you and your spouse. All the issues you settled or battled over during the divorce should be addressed by the dissolution order. Here are the four major issues addressed in a dissolution order.

Child Custody and Visitation

California’s child custody laws contain a presumption that favors joint custody. Custody has two components:

  • Legal custody, which is the authority to make decisions affecting the child’s medical care, education, and religion.
  • Physical custody, which includes the child’s living arrangements.

Parents can often settle the issue of custody and visitation since courts prefer the parents to share time with the children equally. But child custody and visitation are often the most emotionally charged of the issues faced in a divorce, so you could be emotionally drained by the time you and your spouse reach the divorce decree.

Child Support

The California State Legislature codified guidelines for child support that include a formula for calculating child support. The formula includes:

  • The disposable income of each parent.
  • The percentage of time the higher-earning parent has physical responsibility for the children.
  • The number of children.

The dispute between the parents will usually center on the disposable income of each parent. California’s child support laws define net disposable income as gross income minus certain classes of expenses and other adjustments allowed by the court. Parents, particularly the higher earner, may try to minimize their net disposable income to minimize their child support.

The divorce decree will include the court’s calculation for child support using the evidence presented to the court and the formula included in the statute.

Property Division

California uses a community property system for property division. Unless you and your spouse have a prenuptial agreement, the divorce decree will award each of you your separate property, and will split community property equally.

Separate property includes:

  • Property acquired before the marriage.
  • Gifts after the marriage to one spouse.
  • Inheritances after the marriage by one spouse.
  • Income derived from separate property.

Community property includes all other property acquired during the marriage.

Spousal Support

You and your spouse may fight intensely over spousal support, also called alimony. The court can consider 11 factors in deciding whether to award spousal support and how much to award. These factors allow the court considerable discretion. This provides plenty of ground to battle over during the determination of spousal support.

The factors include:

  • The earning capacity of each party compared to the standard of living during the marriage.
  • Whether the spouse seeking alimony supported the other spouse while obtaining an education.
  • The resources of the spouses.
  • The needs of the spouses.
  • The age and health of the spouses.
  • Any history of domestic violence.
  • The balance of hardships.

Since these factors are amorphous, both you and your spouse will present evidence to support your side of the alimony fight. The divorce decree will contain the determination of whether to award alimony, how much to award, and how long the alimony will continue.

Modifying the Divorce Decree

If you are unhappy with the dissolution order, you and your Riverside family law attorney can petition to modify the decree. You can work with your ex-spouse to modify your divorce decree or request modification alone.