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Divorce in California: A General Guide on Dividing Property

Going through a divorce can be a very stressful undertaking, and you will likely have a lot of questions about the process. One of the most challenging portions of a divorce is figuring out how the marital property will be divided. Based on California’s Family Code §2581, all property, assets and debts held by both parties during a marriage is presumed to belong to both parties” and the equal division occurs unless the presumption is overcome by other evidence. As a result, when the decision to get a divorce is made, all property, assets and debts must be divided equally.

Making a decision on how to divide the property and debts is a matter that can be left entirely on the divorcing couple. If you find yourself in a situation where an agreement cannot be reached, the following information can help you protect your interests.

Three Important Steps in Property Allocation

In California, when a divorcing couple cannot agree on the terms of their divorce, a family court will make important decisions on their behalf. The following are steps in the process of property division you should know about. Understanding these steps can help safeguard your rights and responsibilities in the divorce process.

Community Property vs. Separate Property – There is a general misconception that all property held in a marriage is considered community property, meaning, it is owned by both parties equally. Contrary to belief, all property owned before the marriage or acquired as a gift or through inheritance during the union will be considered that party’s separate property.

Additionally, Family Code §2622 establishes that all property acquired before the divorce finalization but after the date of separation will also be considered separate property. Proving a date of separation does not have to entail a date when one party left the marital home. Instead, the date of separation can be when one party made the decision to terminate the marriage and took steps that demonstrate the decision.

Determine the Property Value – Assigning a monetary value to each and every asset can be a daunting process, but it is nevertheless necessary. For unique items, such as artwork or antiques, an appraisal can help determine the property’s value. Among the most difficult to evaluate are retirement and workplace benefits. These assets will require the assistance of a financial professional, such as a certified public accountant.

Dividing the Property – When a divorcing couple cannot agree on how to divide the assets, property and debts, a judge can do so on their behalf. However, it is always in the best interests for the parties to do so on their own accord, as this can facilitate a favorable outcome for both parties.

The division of property can be accomplished through many different methods, including:

  • Marital property can be sold and the proceeds can be divided by the parties;
  • One party can “buy out” the other party’s share of a property or asset;
  • The property can continue to be owned by both parties for the purpose of investment; and
  • Debts can be allocated to one single party.

A Family Law Attorney Can Help Defend Your Interests

Property division in a divorce can be a strenuous process, but it is required in a divorce filed in the State of California. If you are contemplating filing for a divorce or are a respondent in the matter, you will need to obtain the legal support of a qualified attorney who can help you understand your rights and responsibilities as well as advocate on your behalf.

The attorneys at the Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP are exceptionally experienced in complex divorce cases, including the property division process. The compassionate attorneys at the Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP understand that the process of getting a divorce can be difficult; therefore, the firm works diligently in ensuring their clients fully understand what is expected of them throughout the entire process. Consider scheduling a free initial consultation with the firm today.

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