California Divorce 101: Property Division

Divorce is one of the most challenging things that anyone can go through. Feelings of anger, fear, disappointment, and exasperation are not uncommon, which lead to contention and dispute between spouses. Due to this, property division is typically contested in a divorce, and litigation is needed. However, you should not let your emotions stop you from protecting your financial interests.

Community Property and Separate Property

Property is defined as anything that can be bought or sold or anything that has value. This can include:

  • A home

  • Cars

  • Furniture

  • Clothing

  • Income

  • Debt

  • Pension plans

  • Stocks

  • A business

  • 401(k) plans

California maintains a community property system. This means that all property and debt accumulated during the marriage must be shared equally between the spouses getting divorced. Savings, stocks, bonds, business shares, real estate—all will be split down the middle. However, a court can decide to split assets if one spouse can present a strong enough argument.

The only items that are protected are those that pre-date the marriage. Property that was acquired prior to the marriage is considered separate property. Also, separate property includes any gifts or inheritances that a spouse receives. However, this rule only holds if you have not entangled any of these items with the marital property.

Determining which assets are separate property and which are community property can be difficult. Even if you believe an asset is separate property, it might not be. For example, if you purchased a car prior to your marriage, but your spouse used marital funds to improve the vehicle, the property is then commingled. Complications like this prove why it is necessary to hire a skilled property division attorney. A divorce lawyer can help you distinguish separate property and community property.

How Property is Divided in a Divorce

When spouses divorce, they should begin by making a list of everything they own and categorize their items as separate property or community property. This property will have to be listed in the Schedule of Assets and Debts form, which is required in divorce cases. This form must be exchanged between spouses, and allows each party to declare all of their assets and debts to the other.

Once these forms have been exchanged, each party can decide if they agree with the others about what property is considered community or separate and if the value of assets is correct. At this point, the spouses will need to determine how to split their property.

If both spouses agree on how they want to split their assets, they can draft an agreement to submit to the court. The judge will have to sign off on this agreement to ensure the property is justly separated. The divorce will not be finalized until this is done.

In contested divorce cases, property division will be decided by a judge. When a judge decides on how to split community property, they will examine the net value of all of the assets. After that, they will divide assets based on their monetary value, which must be of equal value for each spouse. By doing this, the division if fair for each spouse.

Why You Need a Divorce Lawyer

If you know that a divorce is imminent, it’s crucial to hire a divorce lawyer. You need someone to fight to protect your assets and property. The Law Offices of Christopher L. Hoglin will help you build a legal strategy that will meet your goals, ensuring your finances are protected during the divorce process.

If you are going through a divorce, and need a legal advocate, call the Law Offices of Christopher L. Hoglin, P.C. today at (626) 653-4075.

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