Every divorce in California involves some form of property division. When a couple marries, the property that they accumulate throughout their marriage is communal. Therefore, it must be split fairly if they decide to divorce. If you are going through a divorce in California, it is essential that you educate yourself on how property division works. That way, you can ensure that you receive what you are rightfully entitled to.
If you are going through a divorce, it is important to learn about California’s property division laws and how they may affect you.
What Does “Divided Property” Mean in a California Divorce?
The term “divided property” is used to refer to the property that is being split between spouses in a divorce. It is also known as marital property. The divided property in a divorce will most likely involve all the property you collected throughout your relationship. It can include:
- The family home
- Vacation homes and other real estate properties
- Bank accounts
- Stocks and investments
- Pension accounts
- Any other assets of value or personal meaning collected throughout the marriage
Separate Property vs. Marital Property in California
There are two main categories of property that are acknowledged during the property division process in California:
- Marital Property
Marital property, otherwise referred to as communal property, is the property collected by a couple after they are formally married. Communal property is equally owned by each spouse. It is also the property that is subject to division during divorce. If the divorcing couple cannot make agreements on their own, the court must split all marital property as fairly as possible.
- Separate Property
Separate property, however, is the property that was owned by one spouse before they married their partner. This property can include anything from stocks to vacation homes. This property was owned before the marriage and kept in only one spouse’s name. In most cases, separate property cannot be used during the property division process unless the court has substantial reason to do so.
How Does California Divide Property?
When dividing property in a divorce, California follows what are known as “community property” laws. These laws state that all property that is collected by a couple throughout their marriage is communal. This means that each spouse is entitled to 50% of each asset they own together. However, because it is not possible to “cut all assets in half,” the state must split the marital property as fairly as possible when a couple separates.
To do so, the court will take a variety of different elements into consideration, such as:
- The length of the marriage
- The value of the assets being divided
- If children are involved and what the custody arrangements are
- The income of each spouse
- Debt collected by each spouse during their marriage
- Pre-marital agreements
- Separate property owned by each spouse
How Long Do You Have to Be Married in California to Qualify for Half of the Property?
The length of your marriage has no impact on whether you qualify for half of the marital property in a divorce. Community property laws state that each spouse is entitled to 50% of the property collected throughout their marriage. This means that the length of your marriage will only impact how much property is divided. For example, a long-term marriage of 10+ years will have significantly more property and assets to divide than a marriage that lasted one year. Regardless of how long your marriage may have lasted in California, you are entitled to half of the property and assets that you acquired.
Q: Do All Property Division Matters Have to Go Through Litigation in California?
A: The state of California offers all divorcing partners the opportunity to make agreements on their separation outside of court. This means that a couple can compromise on property division without having to go through litigation. They can attempt to use methods like mediation, arbitration, and collaboration. However, many divorces are full of high emotions and conflict. It can be difficult for a separating couple to agree on matters as important as the division of property.
Q: Who Gets the Family Home in a Divorce?
A: One of the most contentious elements of the property division process is the decision of who gets the family home. If a couple cannot agree on who can have it, the court must decide to either:
- Give it to one spouse.
- Allow one spouse to buy out the other’s share.
- Force the couple to sell the house.
- Allow a deferred sale for the time being.
The ultimate decision on who gets your family home will depend on a wide range of circumstances unique to your divorce.
Q: What Is Comingling?
A: Comingling is the process whereby a couple’s separate and marital property become mixed together throughout the course of their relationship. For example, one spouse may have had a separate bank account with only their name on it. They later turned it into a family account during their marriage. When they go to split it during divorce, it can be difficult to tell whether it is separate or communal property.
Q: Do I Need to Have My Property Appraised for Property Division in California?
A: Having your communal assets appraised can be beneficial in more ways than one. It can help you combat your spouse if they are attempting to lie about or hide assets. It can also help ensure that the proper value of each asset is identified. That way, you can receive what you are entitled to.
The Law Offices of Patricia A. Rigdon: Your Pasadena Divorce Attorney
Divorces involve a wide range of complicated legal aspects. These can be difficult to navigate without the help of an experienced attorney. At the Law Offices of Patricia A. Rigdon, we are committed to helping clients across Pasadena find resolutions to their family law issues. We understand how complex situations like divorce and property division can become. That is why we offer a variety of family law services to assist you in the way you need.
For more information on divorce and property division services, or to schedule a meeting with one of our team members, reach out today.