As part of your divorce, you will probably have to separate some of the property that you and your spouse acquired over the life of your marriage. For most couples, this is one of the most stressful parts of divorcing and may lead to bitter arguments about which property belongs to each partner. What does California law say about “community” property versus “separate” property, and how can you protect important items from being confiscated by your ex in the divorce process?
The Purpose of Equitable Division
The spirit of the law in California is that each partner should wind up with an equal share of marital or community property. This means that property the two have collected or acquired throughout the marriage, both partners should end up with a fair amount. Likewise, both partners should be responsible for their fair share of the marital debt.
However, this does not mean that every asset and every debt is divided in half. After all, one partner may be able to pay the debt while the other cannot. In that case, the increased amount of debt taken on by one partner could be offset by the property awarded to that partner. This can quickly become complicated when dealing with valuable assets and large amounts of debt, especially when one partner has much greater earning power than the other.
The Difference Between Community and Separate Property
To further complicate matters, not all property is viewed the same way by the courts in a divorce. Some property may have been owned prior to the marriage and kept separate during the marriage. This property is not subject to division as community property owned by both spouses. However, what one partner considers separate property the other may consider community property. This can result in disputes.
The courts usually take the view that separate property that is not subject to division must have been owned prior to the marriage; must have been kept completely separate from the couple’s marital finances; or must have been acquired by gift or inheritance. If the property meets these qualifications, judges will usually support a determination of the property as separate from the marital estate.
In order to create a working settlement agreement, many divorcing couples look to an experienced divorce attorney for help. The lawyers at Men’s Legal Center in San Diego may be able to help you protect your separate property and work out an agreement to divide your marital property fairly. Call today to discuss your case.