When you file for divorce in the state of California, you and your spouse must agree on how to divide up the property, assets and debts, otherwise it will be left up to the discretion of the court. In California, divorce is governed by community property laws and there are two types of property: separate property and community property.
In every divorce case, there are three things that must be addressed in order to resolve the division of property:
- Differentiate between the marital property and the separate property
- Put a value on the marital property
- Figure out how to divide up the property fairly between both parties
What Is Community Property?
Any real estate, assets and debts that are acquired during the time that the spouses are married are considered to be community property. Community or marital property belongs to each spouse equally which means it must be divided up equally between the two.
If property was once separate but the couple changed the property to be shared either before or during the time of the marriage union, then it will be considered community property. However, the state of ownership of the property must be written down in writing and clearly stated by both parties. One cannot simply change the name on the title of the property. The same goes for separate property, it can be switched over to marital property during or before the marriage takes place.
There are also certain types of assets that California courts consider to be part community and part separate, these would include a retirement savings account or business savings account. If one spouse contributed to it before, during and after marriage, then it can be considered both shared and separate. Division of property can get complicated at times, especially when one spouse owns their own business and the other spouse contributed or helped with during the marriage.
What Is Separate Property?
If one spouse acquired inheritance or a gift before or during the marriage, then that is considered to be their separate property. Also, anything that is acquired before the divorce but after their separation will be considered separate property. Remember that the date of separate is the day that one spouse decides that the marriage is over, not the day one spouse moves out of the house.
How Do You Determine Property Value?
One thing that can help in determining property value is getting appraisals, this can help you find out how much your real estate and other prized possessions are worth. Some property will require the assistance of a C.P.A. or financial professional in order to determine its worth.
How Is the Property Divided?
Different assets will be assigned to each spouse. If the couple can agree on the division of property then they can do it themselves. If not, the court will make the decisions for them. Sometimes spouses will buy out certain assets from the other. Along with the property and assets, debts also need to be divided between the two parties. Debts such as mortgages, credit cards or car loans will be assigned to each spouse. It is usually wise to try and pay off all the marital debts before the marriage is final. For example, couples typically sell the family home or have it refinanced.
If you have further questions regarding property division in California, call to speak with a divorce lawyer here at Widger & Widger, APLC. We will
review your case for free! You can also visit our
FAQ page for answers to other common questions.