Significant or Recent Changes to California Family Law

recent changes to california family law

In 2021, the California state legislature enacted a number of laws that went into effect. Numerous new laws are intended to address new challenges that rendered ineffective previous family law legislation.

Although Californians have supported the majority of the new laws, they have also voiced opposition to a few of them. Here are the most recent modifications to California’s family law.

Visitation and Custody

The law in California now requires trial courts to take a child’s wishes into account when determining visitation and custody. In addition, children over the age of 13 may express their preferences to the trial court. However, if the court determines that the child’s best interests will not be protected, the child’s preferences may be denied.

In certain circumstances, even younger children can address the court. The recent changes also instruct the court to find alternative means of determining the preferences of the child. An investigator, evaluator, or child counselor may present the court with the child’s preferences. Parents may also submit the preferences of their children. Soliciting the Murder of a Spouse If an individual is convicted of attempting to murder their spouse, the intended victim is entitled to all of the conspirator’s pension benefits and retirement bonuses.

This also applies if a conspirator was convicted of plotting their spouse’s murder. In addition, perpetrators receive no spousal support, insurance payments, or medical benefits.

Ineligibility of Judges

A recent modification to the California family code mandates that anyone seeking the disqualification of a judge must notify all parties involved. This notice must be delivered to the parties within five days of the filing of the motion. If the disqualification motion is a peremptory challenge, the notice must be delivered to all parties within ten days of the motion’s filing. This period may be extended to 15 days if the case is before a court with a direct calendar.

Family Code Chapter 771

Additionally, recent changes have been made to estate planning law. According to the new law, if a couple is living separately and apart, their income during this time is considered individual income.

This means that they cannot be divided in the event of a subsequent divorce. However, the courts have had difficulty defining what “separate and apart” means.

Consensus holds that the separate and apart requirement is met when the husband or wife voluntarily abstains from participating in marital relations. In addition, the spouse begins to engage in activities that they would not normally engage in if they were married to the other spouse.

A 2020 amendment now requires spouses to inform the other of their intention to dissolve the marriage. This new law has significant effects on estate planning. Now, attorneys specializing in estate planning must understand the specifics of this latest amendment and how it affects their clients. After your divorce, you may wish to purchase a home, for instance.

You may plan to leave this home to someone else after your passing. After your death, your spouse may come to claim the property.

This law may offer you and your beneficiaries protection against such claims. Additionally, it implies that you should announce your intention to end the marriage as soon as you separate. Failure to do so may allow the court to award your spouse your community property after your death. The spouse can easily assert that you never lived apart or were separated.


Residents of California and estate planning attorneys must be aware of the implications of the most recent modifications to the California Family Code. This facilitates estate planning in accordance with the most recent legal changes.

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