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Divorce Law in California: Understanding Property Division

If you are married and contemplating a divorce, any assets and debts accumulated in the duration of the marriage will typically belong to both parties. A married couple who is going through a divorce will need to decide how to separate the acquired assets, property, and debts. A potential solution to this is to ask a court to do it on their behalf. While this is often the case when parties cannot enter into an agreement, it also leaves the division up to judicial officers and in these situations one or both parties may not be happy with the final outcome.

Under the State of California’s community and property laws, any assets or debts obtained in the duration of the marriage belong to both parties equally; thus, should be divided equally in a divorce. For some couples, it is easy to come into an agreement on how to divide the property but those who find it difficult will ultimately need to seek the assistance of a mediator or by courtroom litigation with an attorney.

If you or someone you know is going through a divorce process or contemplating a divorce, consult the legal experience of a professional family law attorney who has experience in handling divorce law and property division. Divorce can be difficult for any family, the support of a professional attorney can help ease you through the difficult process. A qualified family law attorney should also be able to champion for your rights when it comes to property division in your divorce.

Steps to Property Division

Whether a couple handles their own property division or has a court or mediator handle it for them, there are three important steps to the entire process.

The first step is to determine if the property, assets, or debt is considered separate or part of the marriage (community property).

The second step is for the couple to come into agreement on the value of the assets. This is done by each party completing, filing, and serving disclosures. These documents are detailed lists of assets with values and debts and can include supporting documents like financial statements and or formal valuations.

Finally, the couple will need to decide on how to divide the assets, property, and/or debts. The decision can be made by a formal agreement outside of court, by way of mediation, or decided by the court at formal trials/hearings.

The Key Differences between Separate and Community Property

There is a common misconception that all property and debts accumulated in a marriage is considered community property. While this is for the most part true, there are certain restrictions. For instance, any property one of the parties owned before the marriage is considered a separate property. Similarly, if one of the spouse acquired inheritance or a gift during the marriage, this is also considered separate property. Separate property is not subject to the equal division guidelines and is typically confirmed as that party’s sole and separate property. One big misconception with regards to this is retirement or pension accounts. While these accounts are typically in the name of one party, and provided or acquired through employment, these accounts are considered community property in California divorces. 

The Bottom Line: Obtain Expert Legal Advice to Guide You

If you have questions or concerns with regard to the division and allocation of your property when going through a divorce, seek the legal expertise of a knowledgeable family law attorney. Property division can be a difficult process to endure; it can be problematic and it can also be very time consuming. A family law attorney with experience in property division can help you through the entire process.

The attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP., are highly skilled in the field of property division in a divorce process and they are dedicated to ensuring that the rights of their clients are upheld during such procedure. Property division can be a difficult matter for many couples; obtain the right legal representation to guide you.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.