Splitting Up Assets: How California Divides Property in Divorce

Divorce brings up a lot of difficult questions and situations. One discussion that will need to take place between you and your ex relates to the division of property. This includes real estate, liquid funds, money held up in retirement or investment funds, items with substantial financial value, and anything else with financial or sentimental value. Below we explain how California divides these assets.

What is Community Property?

The state of California maintains that the property obtained by a couple during their marriage is presumed to be community property. As a result, this property generally belongs equally to both parties and should be divided equally between them if they divorce. This does exclude some assets, including gifts or property inherited by one spouse during the marriage, or other circumstances where an equal division of the property is unfair.

Whether or not a property is presumed to be community property is usually based on whether it was obtained before or after the date of separation. This can be difficult to figure out in some cases, since couples may disagree on when they officially decided to end the marriage. In California, the date of separation is recognized as the date that one party decides to end the marriage and requires some act of physical separation. This act of physical separation is often moving out of the home, but not always and can be when the couple each live in a separate room in the same home.

Protecting Your Separate Property

If you have assets or property obtained prior to the marriage, it continues to be your exclusive property throughout and after the marriage. However, separate property may become community property if it’s handled in a certain way. If you have your own bank account before getting married, it may become community property if your spouse deposits money into it during the marriage. Similarly, the community may have an interest in a home owned by you prior to the marriage if the mortgage payments were made from earnings from work during your marriage.

If there are separate assets you want to keep from sharing with your spouse in your divorce, you may need to prove that they are separate, rather than community property. This can become complicated if parties disagree on how much they are entitled to after the marriage ends.

Assessing and Dividing Property

In many cases, the assessment and division of property is not done by the court—it is done by the divorcing parties and their lawyers. This allows both spouses to decide which assets are important to them and where they are willing to compromise. If parties are unable to come to an agreement, the court will decide which assets are community property and which are separate property.

Assessing the value of property is another part of this process. For assets that don’t have a clear monetary value, expert appraisals may be necessary. Depending on what the divorcing spouses agree to, they may sign property over to each other, sell assets and divide the proceeds, or take on debt to buy out the other party’s part of a property.

The decisions you make during a divorce can affect you for the rest of your life—having an experienced and empathetic attorney can help.

Contact KL Family Law today to discuss your case and schedule a consultation.

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KL Family Law

At KL Family Law, we understand that your primary concern is the well-being of your children. We strive to offer tailored solutions for your family law needs and help you move forward through this difficult transition.

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