Understanding community property division

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Understanding community property division

During a divorce, the division of property is one of the critical processes that determine the future financial well-being of each spouse. While the spouses may have ideas of what they hope to gain from the divorce, the outcome is not always what they expect, especially if they choose litigated divorce over more peaceful options like mediation or collaboration.

If this is similar to your situation, you may benefit from knowing as much as possible about the laws regarding property division in this state. California is one of several states in the country that divide marital assets by a standard of community property. Understanding this concept may prepare you for what to expect and how to fight for the fair share of assets you deserve.

Yours, mine, ours

Family courts in most states have adopted the policy of dividing marital assets equitably, which is not necessarily evenly. Based on several factors, such as a disparity in incomes, earning power or economic needs, the courts in these states attempt to reach a division of assets that will balance the financial circumstances between the spouses. California’s laws are different. In this state, the court uses a community property standard, which follows these rules, in most cases:

  • Everything you and your spouse acquired from the date of your wedding belongs equally to both of you with a few exceptions, such as inheritances.
  • The court will divide your community property as equally as possible, making sure you and your spouse each obtain a fair portion.
  • Community property includes tangible goods like cars, homes, bank accounts and pensions, but it also includes intellectual property and the appreciation of a business, even one that one of you began as a single person.
  • The court will divide your debts equitably, however, so that you will not necessarily end up responsible for the debts of a free-spending spouse.
  • The court assumes all property you and your spouse own is marital property, so you should be prepared to provide evidence of individual ownership of any personal assets.

Other factors in your marriage may complicate your asset division, such as if you were married and acquired property in another state before moving to California. This is why it is essential to have solid legal advocacy from the earliest days after your decision to divorce so you have a better chance of meeting your goals while protecting your rights under the law.