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Divorce community property california laws

Building a life with someone means sharing love, memories, and, on a less sentimental note, a lot of stuff.

How to Divide Marital Property During Divorce

So when the decision to divorce is made, the process of parting ways isn't as simple as slamming the door and driving off into the sunset though wouldn't that be nice? Instead, it involves among other things the sometimes tedious task of dividing your property—that is, all of the assets each of you has accumulated during your marriage. Here are a few tips to help you keep the process as seamless and pain-free as possible.

5 Questions - California Divorces - The Law Offices of Andy I. Chen

That's not to suggest being a pushover, however. It's a good idea that you and your spouse both hire legal representation to mediate, provide guidance, and help ensure a fair agreement is reached. Anything you owned before the marriage and anything inherited during the marriage will not count as marital property.

Have money stashed away in a personal account? Don't try to hide it.

7 Principles of California Community Property

Divorce attorneys are pros at identifying assets that are tucked away out of sight. To keep from being penalized later on in the process, it's best to lay all your cards on the table at the get-go. Separate property also generally includes items purchased with or exchanged for separate property, earnings on separate property, and any increase in value of separate property, as long as the property owner can prove the claim with financial records or other documents.

California law also provides that property spouses acquire before divorce but after the date of separation is separate property. The date of separation is not necessarily the date one spouse moves out of the marital home. Instead, it is the date that one spouse decides to end the marriage, and it requires some act of physical separation combined with other actions clearly demonstrating that the spouse has decided to end the marriage. The date of separation can become a big issue if just before the divorce one spouse either earned an unusual amount of money—got a large bonus at work or won the lottery, for example—or spent a significant amount of money.

Courts usually lean toward later rather than earlier dates when evidence conflicts, so that more property is included as community property, rather than less.

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A couple can agree either before or during marriage to change an asset that was originally separate property into community property, or vice versa. Such agreements must be in writing and must clearly state the intentions of the parties; simply changing the title of the property is not enough.


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A premarital bank account belonging to one spouse can become marital property if the other spouse makes deposits to it; a house owned by one spouse alone can become marital property either in whole or in part if both spouses pay the mortgage and other expenses.

Many types of assets can be partially community and partially separate, including retirement accounts one spouse contributed to both before and after the marriage, or a business one spouse started before marriage and continued operating after marriage.


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Distinguishing community property from separate property can become very complicated, especially if one spouse owns a business or other asset to which the other contributed labor or funds during the marriage. If you have a complex property situation, you may need to consult an attorney for advice. Appraisals can help a couple determine the value of real property as well as items like antiques or artwork.

Retirement assets can be very difficult to evaluate and may require the assistance of an actuary, C. They can also agree to hold property together even after the divorce. Others may keep investment property, hoping that it will increase in value. The couple must also assign all debts accrued during the marriage, including mortgages, car loans, and credit card debts, to one of the spouses. Couples dividing debts should be aware that their separation agreement or divorce order is not binding on creditors, who may continue trying to collect a community debt from either spouse.

The information provided on this site is not legal advice, does not constitute a lawyer referral service, and no attorney-client or confidential relationship is or will be formed by use of the site.

What is Community Property in California and is it Always 50/50?

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