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How is property divided in a California divorce?

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2024 | Property Division

Divorce is both a very emotional process and a practical one. Divorcing spouses have to negotiate terms for the division of their property and possibly also the financial support of a dependent spouse or minor children.

Practical or financial concerns are among the leading causes of conflict during California divorces. Spouses may disagree about how they should share their assets and financial obligations. People sometimes approach divorce proceedings with unrealistic expectations. They may misunderstand what could occur if they take the matter to court.

What usually happens to marital property during litigated California divorce proceedings?

California has community property rules

Every state has a slightly different approach to asset division during a divorce. California is among the small minority of states that have community property laws for the purposes of asset division.

The assets owned by the spouses fall into two general categories. Some assets are community or marital property, which means that they belong to both houses. Other assets are separate property that belong to one spouse. Inherited assets and property someone owned prior to marriage could be their separate property. Most of the time, the income people earn and the property that they acquire during the marriage is community property that they may need to divide if they divorce.

Occasionally, some assets may constitute quasi-community property because spouses acquired them in another state before moving to California. Other times, assets may be partially separate property and partially marital property. A retirement account that someone opened before marriage might be partially marital property and partially the separate property of one spouse, for example.

What does community property division entail?

Once spouses know what assets are separate property and which ones are marital property, they can then attempt to negotiate with one another. Otherwise, a judge can apply community property rules to their marital estate.

Typically, the division of community property requires an even split of marital assets. People do not necessarily have to divide each asset in half but instead need to achieve an equal division when looking at the totality of the marital estate. Some spouses can negotiate their own settlements. Others may find that the only way to resolve their property division disputes is to go to court and have a judge settle their disagreements.