How Property Is Divided In A California Divorce

The process of legally separating or divorcing can be complicated, especially when a couple has acquired real estate and financial assets or incurred significant debts during the marriage. Disputes on how to divide property can occur, causing tempers or stress levels to rise. At Viola Law P.C., our lawyers work to protect our clients' short- and long-term interests as assets and debts are assessed and divided.

California is a community property state. This means that all property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be part of the marital estate and is to be equally divided at the time of divorce or legal separation. This principle applies to all assets, ranging from homes to furniture to savings accounts to retirement funds. Property subject to division during divorce may include:

  • Real estate, including your primary residence, vacation home, lots or undeveloped land, commercial property and timeshares
  • Personal property such as home furnishings, jewelry, artwork and electronics
  • Business assets, including partnership interests, LLCs and corporations
  • Retirement benefits such as pensions, IRAs and 401(k)s
  • Vehicles and recreational vehicles
  • Investments such as stock options and stocks, RSUs, bonds, annuities and mutual funds
  • Loans, credit card and other debts
  • Financial accounts, including those related to children (e.g., college savings)
  • Insurance policies
  • Trusts

Community Property Exceptions

There are, however, exceptions to the community property presumption or rule. Property that is inherited, was received as a gift or can be traced to property owned prior to the date of marriage or after the date of separation is considered separate property and is not subject to division during divorce.

In addition, the characterization of property may be affected by a prenuptial agreement or other signed agreements during the marriage. Determining whether property has properly been transferred (transmuted) from community to separate or separate to community is legally complex. Some property may take on characteristics of both community and separate property, such as a home purchase by one party before the marriage that marital funds then paid the mortgage on. The experienced family law attorneys at Viola Law firm can assist you in determining the character of your property.

Learn What To Expect

Property settlements can become complex, and it can be difficult to understand what a fair division of property actually looks like in your case. To schedule a meeting with an experienced divorce attorney, please call our San Mateo office at 650-532-9389 or contact us online.

As part of your divorce or legal separation, we will first meet with you to understand your unique situation and determine the character of your property (community or separate). We will investigate whether any community property has been transferred into separate property or separate property into community property and analyze the validity of the transfer. Finally, we will discuss your property settlement goals and how we may able to help you achieve them.

Have more questions about division of property during divorce? Check out our Property Characterization and Division Q&A.