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How does California divorce law handle property division?

On Behalf of | Oct 3, 2023 | Divorce

Southern California is known for many things: beaches, warm weather, Hollywood, tourists. Another thing that makes Southern California (and the rest of the state) unique is how spouses split their assets when they get divorced.

Most states use the equitable distribution method. But California is different. Along with a minority of states, California uses the community property system. While equitable distribution states generally allow a property settlement to become part of the divorce decree as long as it is “fair’ to both sides, here in California, you generally must split your community property 50-50 with your ex.

Community vs. separate property

Thus, instead of figuring out how much of each asset each spouse should get, the question in a California divorce often becomes, what is community property and what isn’t? Community property refers to almost everything you and your spouse acquired during the marriage. These assets (and debts) legally belong jointly to both of you, regardless of if one or both of you earned an income.

Things that belonged to one of you alone before getting married that did not become comingled with the other spouse’s property are separate property. You get to keep all your separate property.

Obviously, determining what is community property and what is not can make a big difference in how much you walk away from the divorce with. Valuation is another factor. You need to know exactly what your community property is worth before you can negotiate a fair settlement.

Legal assistance with property division

Identifying community versus separate property and getting valuations for the house, small business and other major assets is something an experienced family law attorney can do for you.