What Property Can I Keep in a Divorce?
Orange County Divorce Lawyers Explain California Community Property Law
Dividing property can be a stressful part of a divorce for some couples. This does not need to be the case. Our Orange County Family Law Associates help couples sort out their shared business interests, retirement assets and other types of property they accumulated through their time together.
Our OC divorce lawyers can also help you figure out what qualifies as separate property or community property. This is not always a black and white issue. There is no fee to meet with us and ask questions about property division under California community property law.
Property Division in a California Divorce
California family laws state that any property acquired during the marriage is community property. This means that all income and marital assets, no matter who earned the property, belongs to both parties equally. Married couples have a choice when it comes to how they choose to divide this property: they can decide by themselves, or if they cannot agree, the court will decide who gets what.
The goal is to divide property such that that both parties receive assets of equal value. To do this, you or the courts must:
- Determine which properties are community property and separate property
- Assess the value of the community property
- Divide the community property equally
What Counts as Community Property Under California Divorce Law?
Generally, any property that you acquire during the marriage is considered community property. This does not apply to anything you bought before the marriage or inherited during the marriage. It also does not apply to interests or other increases in value earned on separate property.
If both parties agree to change the status of an item from community to separate property or vice versa, then the court will allow this. It will need verification, in writing, confirming that you wish to change the status. In some cases, a spouse may inadvertently change separate property into community property if separate assets are co-mingled with community property.
Assessing and Dividing Property in Your Divorce Agreement
Determining whether property counts as separate or community property takes up the bulk of the property division process. Determining the value of an asset may require the services of an appraiser or financial assistant if the couple cannot agree. An appraisal may be necessary for real estate, automobiles, stock options, future interests, business interests, retirement assets and certain personal property, such as jewelry or artwork.
How the couple actually decides to divide the property can go a number of different ways, depending on what makes the most sense in the situation:
- Each can physically take half the property
- One spouse can pay the other cash to take the property based on its value
- Spouses can barter illiquid assets worth similar amounts
- Spouses can sell the property and split the proceeds
Everyone has their own reasons for considering divorce, and each couple proceeds with different priorities. Our Orange County Family Law Associates can meet with you, free of charge, and help you figure out your best solution.