How are things divided in a California divorce?
Don't make assumptions about how things will or can be divided in a divorce.
The state of California is one of nine community property states in the US. This means that a marriage (or domestic partnership) makes 2 people 1 legal “community.” So, property that the couple acquires during marriage/partnership is “community property.” And debt that the couple acquires during the marriage/partnership also belongs to the “community debt.”
Community property generally is everything that spouses or domestic partners own together. It includes everything you bought or got while you were married (after the date of marriage or registration of domestic partnership) including debt, that is not a gift or inheritance. With few exceptions, it does not matter in whose name the property or debt is held.
Community property also includes all the earnings that either spouse or partner (or both of you) earned during the marriage and everything bought with those earnings. Again, it doesn’t matter if the earning are deposited into accounts in the name of one person only.
Community property will generally include all of the following:
● Bank accounts and cash
● Pension and 401(k) plans
● Business if it was founded/started during the marriage
Some property is considered to be separate property. Separate property belongs to each of you individually. You don’t have to divide it as part of your divorce settlement. Separate property is generally classified as assets you brought into the marriage (because you had them before you married your spouse), gifts intended only for you, and inheritances. It’s also assets and debts acquired after you separate.
In a divorce, when the court has the responsibility to divide assets and debts in a trial, courts will split community property evenly. Things can get especially complex when one or both of the parties started a business during the marriage and the court must determine how to distribute future earnings, tax benefits, and assets.
However, if the parties agree to settle their divorce and divide things, even a bit unequally, the court will accept it if it’s fair and reasonable. This is one of the benefits of settling your divorce instead of litigating in court. You have the flexibility to determine who gets what. You may choose to trade things off. For example, if you have a boat and one of you really wants it in the divorce, you can trade it for something of comparable value.
This is all general information, but there may be exceptions that apply to your situation and we can help you figure that out. If you’re considering filing for divorce or have already filed, give us a call. We’re here to help you through this difficult time. (909) 377-8141
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