What are California’s divorce laws on property division? If you’re headed for a split, here’s what you need to know.
California Divorce Laws on Property Division
If you’re going through a divorce in California, you have to decide how to divide your property and debts. It’s between you and your spouse to come up with a fair agreement… and if you can’t, the judge in your case will decide for you.
What if You and Your Spouse Can’t Agree?
When two spouses are unable to reach an agreement, California divorce laws on property division come into play. The couple needs to provide an accurate value for all the items that need to be divided (more on what needs to be divided later), as well as the exact amount of all debts, so that the judge can rule fairly. Sometimes that means the couple needs to hire appraisers to determine the value of real property, as well as actuaries, CPAs or other professionals to accurately value things like retirement assets.
What Property Needs to Be Divided Under California Property Division Laws?
There are two types of property in a California divorce: community and separate.
- Community property is usually property (assets and debts) that a couple builds up during their marriage.
- Separate property is usually property that one spouse owned him- or herself before the marriage, or that was acquired by inheritance or gift during the marriage. It also includes property that spouses acquire after separation but before divorce – so if one of you has moved out and bought a home, that home (and the things you purchased in it) are likely to be considered separate property. However, every case is different, so it’s incredibly important that you talk to your Stockton divorce lawyer before you do anything major (like buy a house).
There are a lot of nuances when it comes to community and separate property, too, so when a couple can’t agree on their own, they may need to hire financial professionals who can help. Your attorney may be able to refer you to local professionals, so if you need help, ask!
How to Divide Your Property With Your Spouse
Under California divorce laws on property division, you must reach an equitable agreement – one that’s fair. That doesn’t mean you have to split things 50-50. It just means that the way you and your spouse agree to divide your property is reasonably fair to both of you.
You can start to divide your property by following these steps:
- List everything you own (and include what you own together and what you own separately).
- Decide which items are separate property and which items are community property.
- Fill out a Schedule of Assets and Debts, and have your spouse do the same.
- Compare both of your Schedules.
- Work together if you need to negotiate.
#1. List everything you own, together and separately.
By listing all the property you and your spouse own – including his or her separate property – and assigning dollar values to each item, you’re clarifying an inventory that will help you reach a fair agreement.
#2. Decide which items are separate property and which items are community property.
Separating what belongs to each of you, and what belongs to both of you, can help you zero in on the items you really need to work on.
#3. Fill out a Schedule of Assets and Debts, and have your spouse do the same.
Each party must declare all his or her assets and debts on the Schedule of Assets and Debts. Be honest on yours, and insist that your spouse does the same.
#4. Compare both of your Schedules.
You can compare your Schedule of Assets and Debts with your spouse’s to see if you disagree about whether something is community property or separate property, and you can see how close you both are to valuing community property.
#5. Work together to negotiate.
With a clear list in front of you, you’ll be able to see what you’re willing to give up and what you’re not willing to let go of – and you can use each point on your Schedule to negotiate with your spouse. Your attorney will probably stress the importance of negotiation during your divorce, and now is when it comes into play.
Talk to a Lawyer About California Divorce Laws on Property Division Today
If you’re thinking about divorce, or if your ex has already filed, we can help you.
Call us at (209) 989-4425 or get in touch with us online to talk to a lawyer who can help today. We’ll help you with every aspect of your divorce, from child custody and child support to alimony and property division. We can also refer you to a divorce therapist who can help you work through the emotions you’re experiencing. We’ll also be happy to talk to you about California divorce laws on property division, so call us right now for the help you need.