Division of Assets in a California Divorce
A married couple owns property and assets together. When the marriage ends, all of the things that the couple owns will need to be divided up between the spouses. This process can be difficult and can be cause of disagreement. The divorce settlement that divides up assets can shape your financial future and the stakes are high.
It is important to understand the rules for division of assets in a California divorce so you will know what to expect when you decide to end your marriage. An experienced Irvine, CA divorce attorney at Brown & Charbonneau, LLP can assist you with the process of ending your marriage and can provide important assistance in getting the property and assets you need to support yourself after your marriage is over.
The Rules for Division of Assets in a California Divorce
The state of California is a community property state. This means that the rules for division of assets in a divorce are simple. Each spouse is entitled to 50 percent of marital property. Virtually all property, money and assets acquired during the course of the marriage are considered marital property with a few very limited exceptions such as an inheritance left only to one spouse. It does not matter who made the money, who bought the items or who wanted the assets; everything is considered to belong to both spouses and each is entitled to a 50-50 share. Separate property, which is property that each spouse brought into the marriage or that falls within one of the limited exceptions to community property, is kept by the spouse who that particular property belongs to.
Because each spouse gets a 50-50 share of community property, the marital estate is divided during the divorce process. This does not necessarily mean that every asset is split into two, since this is often not possible. It simply means that if a couple has $100,000 worth of shared possessions, each spouse should receive $50,000 worth of assets. The wife may get the car and the husband the boat, for example, but each should get an equal share of their marital property.
Who Decides How Assets are Divided?
Although community property rules apply to all divorces in California, there are situations when a couple can make different decisions and not divide all shared property equally. For example, a couple could create a premarital agreement specifying how property is to be divided in a divorce. If both parties understood the agreement, knew about the assets of the other spouse and agreed without force, fraud or coercion, the agreement should apply in the event that the marriage ends. This means that one spouse could protect his or her assets acquired during marriage and ensure they are not divided 50-50.
Couples can also negotiate their own divorce settlement agreement outside of court, which may not result in a 50-50 split. Both parties would need to agree on the divorce settlement. You should not agree to a settlement that determines the division of assets in a California divorce until you have spoken to a lawyer who can provide guidance on whether the agreement is fair to you.
However, outside of a prenup or a negotiated settlement, the judge in a litigated divorce is always going to divide property according to community property rules. You should have a lawyer representing you during the process of property division to protect your interests. Call Brown & Charbonneau, LLP today to schedule a consultation and learn how an Irvine divorce attorney can help you protect your property.