How Is Property Divided in a California Divorce?

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Couples going through a divorce must figure out how they will divide both their property and debts. As California is a community property state, all assets, property, and debts acquired during the marriage will be divided equally between both spouses. While some couples can decide how to navigate this decision, others may require the assistance of the court. Today, we discuss how property is divided in a California divorce.

Steps for Dividing Property

Here are the following steps that should be taken to divide property during a divorce, whether you handle this yourself or use the court’s assistance:

  • Determine which property is community and which is separate
  • Agree on the value for community property
  • Decide how to divide community property

The Differences Between Community Property and Separate Property

Property that was owned by one spouse before getting married or given to him/her, including inheritances, is considered separate property. Separate property belongs to the spouse who owns it and is generally not divided in a divorce. California law also mandates that property a spouse acquires before a divorce but after the date of separation is also separate property. The date of separation is the day one spouse decided to end the marriage.

At any time, a couple can decide to change an asset that was considered separate property to community property and vice versa. These agreements must be clearly laid out in writing. Additionally, commingling may happen which is where separate property gets mixed up with marital property. An example of this is when one spouse purchases a house but then both spouses pay the mortgage and other expenses together. If you have commingled assets, it would be best to speak with an experienced attorney about your situation.

How to Determine the Property Value and Divide It

Either you and your spouse or the court will determine how much each item is worth. You may require professional assistance at this time in the form of an appraisal. You may also need to hire a financial advisor or accountant to help you determine the worth of your retirement accounts. Once you assign a value to your property, you and your spouse will then need to divide it.

You have various options when it comes to dividing property in California. You could agree to keep the property and manage it together. You could also allow your spouse to buy out your share of property or you could sell it and divide the proceeds.

It is important to note that you will also need to take care of all debts acquired during the marriage, including mortgages, credit card debt, and car payments.

If you have more questions about property division as it relates to your divorce case, contact our firm online or by calling (949) 577-7935 today.