Is There a Statute of Limitations on Divorce in CA?

A statute of limitations is a law that requires a person who wishes to bring a legal claim or cause of action to do so within a certain amount of time. Statutes of limitations apply to both civil and criminal cases in California. However, most family law cases do not have these time limits. Couples in California have the freedom to file for divorce at any time during their marriage. However, specific issues such as child custody or child support may come with time-sensitive court orders.

California Statutes of Limitations

Statutes of limitations encourage claimants to file in a timely manner, in order to keep the justice system just for all parties involved. In a civil case such as a personal injury lawsuit, for example, a delayed claim could be unfair to the allegedly at-fault party. The injured victim could foreseeably wait until important evidence for the defense was lost, for example, to file. The statute of limitations on civil claims in California range from one to four years, in most cases. 

Criminal cases also come with statutes of limitations. The prosecution must act as promptly as possible to arrest a suspect and bring criminal charges. If too much time elapses from the date of the alleged crime, evidence can be lost or ruled inadmissible. Criminal statutes of limitations in California vary based on the type of crime. Most misdemeanor charges must be brought within one year, while felonies have statutes of limitations ranging from three years to no time limit (e.g., for murder or rape).

Time Limits to Be Aware of in a California Divorce Case 

There is no statute of limitations on divorce in California. No state law requires someone to file for divorce within a certain amount of time, such as a specific number of years into the marriage or after filing for legal separation. Once a couple is married, either party can file for divorce at any time. Unless one spouse passes away or a divorce decree has already been issued, no statute of limitations prevents either party from filing for divorce. 

However, once a divorce judgment has been issued by the courts, one or both parties may need to immediately comply with court orders. The orders issued in a divorce take effect the day that the divorce is finalized. If your divorce involves a child support order, for example, the paying parent must fulfill this financial obligation the same month that the order goes into effect. Some orders may need to be followed even before a divorce is finalized, such as protective orders (restraining orders).

Child custody orders must also be immediately followed after a divorce is completed. If one parent receives primary custody, for example, the other parent will not have the legal right to have a child under his or her roof. Failing to follow any of the terms required in a divorce order in a timely manner could lead to falling behind on payments, being held in contempt of court, and even potentially jail time.

Do You Have to Prove Fault for a Divorce in California?

Although there is no official time limit in place for a divorce in California, if your case involves time-sensitive issues, such as allegations of domestic violence, you should file for divorce as soon as possible. While California is a no-fault divorce state, the fault could potentially play a role in court determinations such as child custody or alimony. Alleging child abuse or neglect by one parent, for example, could impact a court’s child custody decision. Filing for divorce sooner rather than later in these circumstances could lead to a stronger case supported by more evidence. 

To file your divorce in a timely and efficient manner, contact a divorce attorney in Los Angeles for assistance when you are ready to begin the legal process.