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How do the California family courts divide marital property?

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2023 | Divorce

Deciding to divorce often involves relinquishing some degree of control over your personal circumstances. Unless you have a very carefully planned contract with your spouse, there may be numerous matters up for negotiation in your divorce.

If the two of you don’t find a way to settle matters amicably, you will end up going to family court. A California judge will then apply the state community property statutes to your marital assets and your debts. How do the courts approach the process of dividing marital property in a California divorce? 

They classify all the resources

If you have always lived in California with your spouse, then the process of determining what property is subject to division is relatively simple. Inheritances and assets that you owned before marriage will be separate property.

Commingled assets and whatever you acquired during the marriage will be separate property. In some cases where couples spent part of their marriage in another state and part of their marriage in California, they may need to treat some of their assets as quasi-community property.

A judge divides your community property

Once you establish which assets are subject to division, the judge presiding over your case will have to make decisions about the most appropriate and fair way to share that property. Many people think of community property laws as automatically leading to a 50/50 division of assets, but that is not always what happens.

Judges have the authority to ask you to sell assets to share the proceeds. They can grant one spouse more property than the other or order the division of specific resources, like retirement accounts. They can even make one spouse accountable for specific debts taken on during the marriage as part of the property division process. All of these actions together may help produce the most appropriate property division settlement that the judge can conceive of based on their understanding of your marital estate.

One of the biggest concerns about litigating property division in California is the unpredictable nature of the process and how a judge has the final say in matters that can be very personal. Some spouses will determine that cooperating with one another is the best solution, while others may end up litigating because they simply cannot compromise with each other.

Learning more about property division rules and other important standards for high-asset California divorces can help those thinking about the potential end of their marriages.

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