Sometimes when a marriage is on the rocks, a working spouse may threaten their unemployed spouse that they will be left with nothing if they file for divorce. Unfortunately, without a proper understanding of California's divorce and property division laws, the unemployed spouse may be inclined to believe this threat.
If you've had a similar conversation with your spouse, please understand that these are idle threats. Your spouse does not have the legal authority to enforce such threats, especially once a divorce action is filed.
Have you been raising the kids?
California recognizes the contributions made by both spouses. So, if you've been home raising your three children for the past 10 years, the court sees the value in all of your contributions. Even if that means taking care of sick children through the night, keeping the house tidy, and cooking dinner for your spouse every night.
After all, imagine how much it would cost to pay someone to do all that you do? Full-time nannies and housekeepers don't come cheap these days.
Know Your Property Rights
California is a community property state; this means that all property acquired by you and your spouse is community property and therefore subject to division. For example, if you've been married for eight years, you're entitled to half of the retirement benefits your spouse accumulated during the marriage.
Under California law, each spouse is entitled to 50% of the marital assets (community property) accumulated during the course of the marriage. This is also true if only one spouse worked during the marriage and even if he or she had all of the assets in their name.
"Does this mean I'm entitled to half of what's in my spouse's bank account?" Yes, so long as the money was deposited during the course of your marriage. But it goes both ways. Your spouse is also entitled to half of the community property that you acquired during the marriage.
Same goes for debts, such as credit cards, even if the card is only in one spouse's name, you're both responsible. Student loan debt however, is the exception and it's counted as a separate property debt.
Next time your spouse says you'll end up with nothing, know that it's not true and give our Los Angeles divorce attorneys a call for a free divorce consultation.