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What is Considered Community Property in California?

In California, the division of assets and liabilities will be a key part of a divorce. Whether you are considering a collaborative divorce or believe that you and your spouse will need to go to court to resolve the matter, you will need to consider how property division will affect you.

California is a community property state, which means that assets and debts acquired during the marriage are generally considered "community property" and will therefore be subject to equitable distribution. If spouses cannot reach an agreement on their own, the court will split community property equally between both parties.

Although in most cases property division will be as equal as possible, there are potential factors that the court may take into account that may affect the division of assets. For example, if one party attempted to intentionally misappropriate property to deny it to the other party, or in certain economic situations, an asset or assets may be awarded to one spouse and not the other.

It is important to consult an experienced Los Angeles property division lawyer. If you are going through divorce in the LA area, call Claery & Hammond, LLP at (310) 817-6904.

What is Separate Property?

Separate property generally includes assets and debts acquired by either spouse before the marriage, after separation, or through inheritance or gift to one spouse during the marriage. Separate property is not subject to division during divorce. However, if separate property is commingled with community property, it may become partially or entirely community property.

Property Division Process in California

In California, the property division process during a divorce is governed by the community property laws.

  • Division of community property
  • Marital settlement agreement
  • Court intervention
  • Valuation of assets
  • Retirement and pension plans
  • Debt division

Division of Community Property

California law requires an equitable division of community property between the spouses. This does not necessarily mean that each asset will be physically divided; instead, the court aims for a fair and equitable distribution of the overall value of community property.

Marital Settlement Agreement

Spouses can negotiate and create a marital settlement agreement that outlines the division of their property. This agreement can specify how assets and debts will be divided and can be submitted to the court for approval. The court generally upholds these agreements as long as they are not unconscionable or unfair.

Court Intervention

If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement, the court will step in and make decisions regarding the division of property. The court will consider various factors such as each spouse's contribution to the acquisition of assets, the length of the marriage, the needs of each spouse, and other relevant factors to determine a fair division.

Valuation of Assets

It is essential to determine the value of assets and debts during the property division process. This may involve obtaining appraisals for significant assets. Accurate valuation helps ensure an equitable distribution.

Types of Assets in a Divorce
  • Real Estate: This includes the marital home, vacation properties, rental properties, land, and any other real estate owned by the couple.

  • Bank Accounts: Any joint bank accounts, savings accounts, or certificates of deposit held by the spouses are considered marital assets.

  • Investments: Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, retirement accounts (such as 401(k) plans and IRAs), brokerage accounts, and any other investment vehicles fall under this category.

  • Vehicles: Cars, motorcycles, boats, recreational vehicles, and other vehicles acquired during the marriage are typically considered marital assets.

  • Business Interests: Ownership stakes in businesses, professional practices, partnerships, and closely held corporations may be subject to division or valuation.

  • Household Items: Furniture, appliances, electronics, artwork, collectibles, and other personal belongings acquired during the marriage may be included in the division of assets.

Retirement and Pension Plans

Retirement benefits and pension plans accumulated during the marriage are considered community property. They may be subject to division or offsetting in the divorce process. Specific rules and calculations may apply to determine the division of these assets.

Debt Division

In addition to dividing assets, community debts are also divided between the spouses. This includes financial obligations acquired during the marriage.

Types of Debts in a Divorce
  • Mortgages and Home Loans: Any outstanding mortgages or loans on the marital home or other properties are considered marital debts.

  • Credit Card Debt: Debts incurred on joint credit cards or credit cards used for marital expenses are typically considered community debts.

  • Personal Loans: Any loans taken by either spouse during the marriage, including personal loans, student loans, or lines of credit, may be subject to division.

  • Auto Loans: If there are outstanding auto loans for vehicles owned by the couple, they may be considered marital debts.

  • Business Debts: If the spouses have joint liability for business debts, they may need to be addressed as part of the divorce settlement.

  • Tax Liabilities: Any tax debts or liabilities, including income taxes or unpaid taxes from previous years, may need to be considered in the division of assets and debts.

How Can a Lawyer Help with Property Division?

There are numerous ways a skilled property division attorney in Los Angeles can assist you in addressing the division of property for your divorce. For example, it may come into question exactly what property should be considered "community property" and what is separate. In these situations, your attorney can work to represent your interests and future in order to protect your property from being split with your spouse or help ensure that certain property is included to be divided.

By consulting with a Los Angeles property division lawyer at Claery & Hammond, LLP you can learn more about how your specific situation could be impacted by California's property division laws. Founding partner Lance Claery and attorney Eli Hammond have represented hundreds of clients in all types of divorce proceedings, and our team can represent your rights and interests in the family courts.

For professional help with equitable distribution issues, contact our Los Angeles property division attorney at Claery & Hammond, LLP today at (310) 817-6904!

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