How Will Property Be Divided in a Divorce in California?

How Will Property Be Divided in a Divorce in California?

How Will Property Be Divided in a Divorce in California?

A divorce is not typically an easy choice to make, especially when the couple has been together for many years and amassed a large amount of property since the beginning of the marriage. One major concern for the two parties getting a divorce is how this property will be divided between them. Divorce is meant to separate the combined lives of two people, but it may not always be simple and clear how that process will work.

How a divorce will proceed and how property will be divided depends on which state the marriage took place in. There are two different types of states: equitable distribution states and community property states.

Equitable Distribution Versus Community Property States

Most U.S. states rely on the equitable distribution model, also known as the fair distribution model. These states tend toward an equal distribution, but a judge decides what a fair property division looks like for each spouse. This division may not be 50/50, and the property that is only in one spouse’s name is more likely to remain with that spouse.

Community property states use the community property legal theory to divide all marital assets. These states combine all the assets that were collected during the marriage and split them 50/50 between the spouses. This division of marital property also applies to any property or assets that were acquired by either partner during the marriage, with a few exceptions.

Property Division in California

California is one of the few states that is strictly a community property state. According to state law, all marital property should be divided equally between the divorcing spouses. Many people may not realize the full extent of the assets that get included in the definition of marital property. Although it may seem obvious that personal property includes items like the family home, furniture, appliances, and personal effects, it can also include vehicles, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, bank accounts, and even family pets. Wages earned or property bought, even if by only one spouse, are included in marital property too. Ultimately, marital property includes everything that was acquired during the marriage.

The partners in a marriage can go through divorce mediation and settle their property in such a way that both spouses are satisfied. Although a judge will have the final say regarding the property division in your divorce, they will not typically refuse to sign an agreement that the two spouses have created.

Non-Marital Property

The only property in a marriage that does not need to go through the property division process is non-marital property. Property and assets brought into a marriage, as well as gifts or an inheritance, may not be considered marital property and will leave the marriage with the individual spouse that owns them. However, depending on how that asset was used, it may have become marital property and must be divided between the two spouses. There is a thin line separating marital and non-marital property, and it can be difficult to determine how the property division will occur.

The Legal Process for the Division of Marital Property: Identification, Characterization, and Valuation


Q: Do I Need an Attorney to Get a Divorce?

A: There is no legal requirement to retain an attorney to get a divorce. If you and your spouse can amicably divide all your assets and there are no complicated situations, you may only need minimal legal help with a divorce. However, it would be wise to speak with an attorney during your divorce proceedings, as they have a plethora of experience that can speed up the process, navigate the legal system, and clear up any confusion.

Q: Which States Are Considered Community Property States?

A: All 50 states in the US have differing laws governing the division of property in a divorce, with some leaning more toward the concept of community property. However, there are only nine states that are considered true community property states. These states are California, Arizona, Louisiana, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Q: What Happens to the Family Home in the Event of a Divorce?

A: There is no simple answer to this question because it depends on how the home is classified. If the home is marital property, then there are two typical outcomes. The first is that the home is sold, and the resulting proceeds are divided equally between the spouses. The second is that one spouse becomes the sole owner by buying out the other spouse’s equity. If the home is non-marital property, the solutions become more complicated, and contested divisions must be decided by the judge.

Q: Is My Spouse Entitled to My Retirement Account?

A: While dividing property in a California divorce, all equity gained during the marriage is considered marital property and must be included in the property division portion of the divorce. This is true even if only one spouse contributed financially to a retirement fund. Pension plans and home equity are also included in accrued equity, which is subject to the property division process.

Q: Can Ex-Spouses Continue to Co-Own Property Following a Divorce?

A: Two individuals that get divorced can maintain their property and co-own it after the divorce. There is no law that requires property to be sold or bought out by a single person. If both parties want to keep their ownership stake in property, there must be a clear agreement between them that outlines ownership and responsibility.

Finding a Property Division Lawyer

Wading through a divorce can be emotionally taxing, even if you have decided that it is the best option for you. If you are emotionally drained, you are more likely to make mistakes that could result in a severe discrepancy between the marital assets you are entitled to and the assets you actually receive. Hiring an attorney from Bickford Blado & Botros can help ensure that your property and assets are classified correctly and then divided equitably. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and confused as you proceed through a divorce, but a knowledgeable attorney can help you feel more secure in the process and result in the best possible outcome for you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.



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