California is one of nine community property states. Nevertheless, the idea that “it all gets split 50/50” in the event of a divorce is dangerously oversimplified. The devil is in the details, and the calculation can get quite complex under certain circumstances. It is important to understand enough about California family law to adequately prepare for divorce-initiated property division.
Asset Division Agreements
Private negotiation between spouses is a very common way of dividing assets incident to a divorce. A hearing is required to approve this agreement in most cases. In some circumstances (such as a child’s best interests), the court might modify a negotiated asset division agreement. To avoid a hearing, you must qualify for a Summary Dissolution:
You must have been married less than five years;
You must have no children;
You must own no real estate;
You must have no significant assets or debts; and
You must both agree to waive spousal support.
A Family Law Attorney Mediator is available to help you reach agreement if you experience an impasse. The substantive law, summarized in the following paragraphs, is used at trial if no agreement is reached or if the agreement is rejected.
California’s community property principle is what the colloquial “50/50” idea is trying to summarize. With certain exceptions such as a property inherited by one spouse, California law assumes that all property gained during the marriage is to be split equally between the spouses.
Separate property includes the assets of either spouse acquired (i) before the marriage (ii) between separation and divorce and (iii) subject to limited exceptions to the community property principle – such as inheritances, gifts, and property subject to a contrary disposition in a valid prenuptial agreement.
In most cases, debts are divided similarly to assets, subject to certain exceptions. For example, if one spouse took out student loans immediately before the marriage and used the income derived from the resulting degree to raise the standard of living of both spouses, such debts are usually considered community property as long as the marriage lasted more than 10 years.
Child Support and Spousal Support
Child support and spousal support issues will naturally affect any division of assets. When one ex-spouse is making payments to the other ex-spouse, the money used to make these payments might be derived from assets allocated to the paying spouse incident to the divorce. These payments can be estimated in advance using guidelines designed for this purpose.
Act Decisively – Justice Is Not Self-Enforcing
The division of assets incident to a divorce can leave you with consequences that could last a lifetime. At CKB Vienna, we know how to balance an aggressive representation strategy with a full understanding of the importance that you might place on maintaining working family relationships.