When couples start the divorce process, one of the biggest issues to resolve is determining what happens to their marital property. Many often wonder whether the property they have accumulated during their marriage will be evenly divided or if there is another route they can take.
Understanding Community Property
Property division laws can be confusing for those going through the divorce process for the first time. Every state utilizes different property division laws. Some operate under the principle of equitable distribution which divides property in a way that is fair for each party while others use the principle of community property. California, along with eight other states, utilizes the community property standard to determine what assets are allocated to each spouse in a divorce.
Community property states operate differently from equitable distribution states. In an equitable distribution state, assets are not necessarily split equally. Rather, property is typically awarded to the spouse who earned it, making it more fair for each spouse. Community property states, on the other hand, view marital property as one single entity. According to California law, a marriage takes two people and turns them into one legal “community.” That means any property (as well as debt) acquired during the marriage is considered “community property.” Essentially, both spouses are presumed to equally contribute to the marriage, which means they both own their marital property.
Therefore, each spouse has equal ownership to the property regardless of who earned it or which spouse’s name is on the title of it. Because California law views both spouses as one party rather than two, marital assets and debts are split 50/50 between the couple, unless they can agree on another arrangement.
What Property is Divided in a Divorce?
In a California divorce, only assets that are considered marital property are divided. Marital property includes all the assets that both spouses have acquired during the length of the marriage.
Property that isn’t split up during property division is separate property, which includes assets acquired before the couple got married and gifts and inheritances received by one spouse during the marriage. Additionally, any assets and income that are acquired after the divorce is filed are not divided.
Community property laws simplify how to split assets between dividing spouses by considering all the assets that were accumulated by both parties. The value of these assets are added together and divided in half, then distributed to each spouse.
Do Assets Have to be Divided 50/50?
Although community property laws state that assets should be evenly distributed among each party, that doesn’t mean they have to be. Certain conditions and situations can bypass the 50/50 ruling.
The following situations can prevent couples from having to split property evenly:
- A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that ensures certain assets remain separate in the event of a divorce
- The couple agrees on a different plan for splitting assets and it doesn’t leave one spouse completely broke
Dividing property based on community property principles can result in feelings of unfairness. If one party brought in more income for the family, they may feel like they deserve more in a divorce. However, a spouse that contributed by staying home to take care of the family may not require the skills and education required to earn a livable income. In cases like this, alimony may be increased.
Because dividing assets and property based on community property principles may seem unfair, couples might try to decide on their own how they want to split up their marital property. However, if they cannot agree on how to divide their property amongst themselves, the court will make the final decision which will ultimately follow community property laws.
If you are in the midst of divorce and need help protecting your marital property, consider reaching out to a Roseville divorce attorney. Not only can the Creative Family Solutions, Cecil Cianci Law, PC team can provide you with sound legal guidance so you can make the best decision to protect your best interests, but we can also work with your spouse’s legal counsel in order to obtain your fair share of property in your divorce.
For property division representation, call Creative Family Solutions, Cecil Cianci Law, PC today at (916) 675-3866.