Most people in California understand that they will have to split up their property in a divorce, but far fewer individuals understand how this process works. This can make heading into the property division process extremely distressing. Some people may even put off filing for divorce out of fear that they will lose their most prized assets. Securing a better understanding of the laws that govern property division can help put some of these fears at ease.
California is a community property state, which means that most property obtained after saying "I do" is considered to be marital property. All marital property must be divided up equally between the divorcing spouses, meaning that each person should receive half. This division does not take things like income or the length of the marriage into account.
Marital property covers a wide range of possible assets. In general, this applies to income earned during the marriage, which can include paychecks, salaries, capital gains, stock dividends, retirement accounts and much more. Property purchased with money that was earned during the course of the marriage is also marital property, as are all debts accrued by either person.
Acquiring something during the course of marriage does not necessarily mean that it will end up as marital property. Inheritances that are kept separate from marital accounts are usually considered separate property and are not subject to division during a divorce. The same applies to gifts in general.
Understanding that marital property must be divided during a divorce is one thing, but figuring out which property is marital and which is separate is another. This can be a tedious and time-consuming process. For most people in California, working with an experienced attorney can help them tackle these and other property division issues.