Sometimes our fears are unfounded, based solely on gossip or a story told by a friend-of-a-friend. For example, men often fear divorce because they feel that California family law and courts favor women on important issues like child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. Feeling nervous about an impending divorce is normal and justified. It is a huge, life-altering step. However, it’s critical to understand that California family laws are not biased in favor of either gender.
Straight from California Family Law
Laws relating to divorce are contained in the California Family Code. Courts are bound by these laws, as well as the parties and their attorneys.
Gender is mentioned in the Family Code. In a chapter relating to custody, the law states:
“The court shall not consider the sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation of a parent, legal guardian, or relative in determining the best interest of the child under subdivision (a).” (emphasis added)
Judges are strictly prohibited from using gender to determine custody for children. And this law just relates to one aspect of divorce. Gender also should not be considered in other issues like child support, spousal support, and property division.
So, if California family law does not favor women, why do so many people feel it does?
Custody, Visitation, and Parental Roles
The prevailing myth is that courts always give custody and support to the wife. In fact, most parents can work out custody and visitation in their parenting plan. The parties and their attorneys do use California family law to prepare their plan. However, some of the decisions might be based on how parenting roles played out during the marriage, but not solely on gender.
Let’s consider two hypothetical examples.
Sophie and Jon have two children. During their marriage, Sophie worked full-time while Jon was a stay-at-home dad. During custody and visitation discussions, the couple might decide to retain these roles. If they cannot agree on custody, a family court judge will consider their roles and decide what’s best for the children.
In the second example, Max has a stressful job that requires almost constant travel. His wife, Emma, works full time also but handles all of the childrearing. If Max tries to get custody of his children, a judge might rule against him because of his job. But the decision will be based on what’s best for the kids, not on Max’s gender.
California Family Law and Support
The same ideas generally apply to child support and spousal support. Courts will consider many factors before ordering one party to pay the other. However, gender is not one of those factors.
If we look at our couples from the previous examples, Sophie might be ordered to pay both child support and spousal support to Jon, in part because he has been out of the workforce caring for the children. Even though Max and Emma both work, the courts might order Max to pay Emma’s child support and spousal support based on his income and childcare arrangements.
Property Division in a Community Property State
Under California family law, marital property and debts are split 50-50 between the spouses. Both parties are equal, except in certain circumstances. Gender certainly should not be a deciding factor here.
Talk to a California Family Law Attorney About Your Divorcee
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.