Dividing property is one of the biggest challenges for couples who divorce. Even if you and your spouse are parting on amicable terms, you may have difficulty splitting certain assets. Some of these may be complex or cherished. Yet, other assets may be difficult to divide due to disputed ownership. By familiarizing yourself with California’s community property laws, you may have an easier time working out who gets what.
California’s community property laws
California is one of nine states with community property laws. Under these laws, you and your spouse will divide your marital property evenly between you during your divorce. This does not mean that you two will end up with the same number of assets. Rather, it means you will end up with the same value of assets. The exception to this rule is if you two signed a prenuptial agreement before your marriage. Your agreement’s terms regarding property division, in this case, will supersede the state’s laws.
When dividing your assets, you must be mindful of what qualifies as marital property in California. The designation applies to obvious assets, like your vehicles and your home. Yet, it also applies to retirement accounts and pension plans held by you or your spouse alone, so long as they were established – or increased in value – during your marriage. Furthermore, any business you or your spouse started or grew during your marriage qualifies as marital property. These assets can be difficult to divide, and you will want the guidance of an attorney to make sure you are receiving an appropriate share.
How California treats separate property
Certain assets count as separate property under California law and will be indivisible during your divorce. Among these assets are those you owned before your marriage – so long as you did not commingle them – or acquired after your separation. Income you earn from these assets will remain off limits in your divorce, too. And gifts or inheritances you received during your marriage will also count as separate property, as will assets you purchased with funds from these.
No two couples split their assets in the exact same way. Yet, California’s community property laws ensure that they do so in an equal manner. By keeping these in mind, you can make sure the property you receive is appropriate for your needs and circumstances.