Divorce in California: Property Division

A couple that is going through a divorce in the State of California must decide how the property will be divided, and this includes any outstanding debts. If the couple in unable to do so, a court will be assigned to do so on their behalf, but the outcome may not be favorable. Under the state’s community property laws, any assets or debts the couple has acquired during the marriage will belong to both parties, equally. Therefore, upon divorce, these debts and assets should be divided equally.

Whether it is a judge, an arbitrator, or the couple handling the property division, the process will involve the following:

  • Determining whether the assets or debts are part of the marriage or belong to a singular party
  • Agree on the total value of the marital property
  • Making a decision on how the property should be divided.

Community Property vs. Separate Property

There’s a very strong presumption that under state law, assets and debts accumulated during marriage are considered community property. While this is mostly true, any property that was already owned by one of the parties before the marriage or was otherwise acquired by him or her by gift or inheritance in the duration of the marriage will typically be that party’s separate property. Any separate property will also include any items that were obtained with or otherwise exchanged with the separate property.

Under state law, any property that was acquired before the divorce but obtained after the date of the separation will be considered as separate property. Under this law, the date of separation will not necessarily mean the time and date a person has moved out of the home. Instead, the date of separation will begin from the time one of the spouses has decided to end the marriage. This will require an act of physical separation in conjunction with other actions that demonstrated that the spouse has made the decision to end the union.

For many couples, the date of separation can become an issue if just before the divorce, one party has earned a significant amount of money, such as getting a bonus at work or has otherwise won the lottery. This can also be a big issue is the party has spent a substantial amount of money. When a couple cannot agree on the date of separation, the court could make a decision based on the evidence. When there is conflicting evidence, the court will usually make a decision on a later date rather than an earlier one.

Couples have the right to agree before or during the marriage if they would want an asset to be considered community property or separate property. These arrangements, however, should be in writing and should be clearly stated. Changing property titles is usually not enough.

Obtain the Support of a Qualified Attorney

When it comes to property division, the process can often be daunting, complex, and extremely time consuming. If you are going through a divorce, seek the legal support of a qualified attorney who will fight for your best interests.

The attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP., are dedicated to representing the rights of  those who are going through a divorce or separation. The firm has many years of experience in property division and other family law matters. When it comes to family law in California, obtain proficient legal support as soon as possible.