California uses a community property standard for asset division when couples divorce. While the law mandates fair division, however, it does not require a 50/50 split of marital assets and debt.
Explore the factors that impact property division in California divorce cases.
Community vs. separate property
In general, assets and debts acquired from the date of marriage to the date of separation constitute marital property in California. Separate property includes inheritances and gifts designated for one spouse; assets designated as separate property in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement; and assets acquired before marriage (but not the increase in value of those assets during the marriage). Each spouse’s separate property and debt holdings may influence division of community property.
Process of reaching a divorce agreement
Couples who determine how to divide marital property outside of court can create any arrangement they desire. The judge will simply review the agreement to ensure its fairness during the process of dissolving the marriage. When the couple cannot agree and asks the court to decide on their behalf, they must abide by the judge’s decision which may default to a 50/50 property split.
Extent and value of property
Couples who share extensive, complex community property often reach an alternative property agreement arrangement. They must account for the current value of investments, businesses, stock options, real estate, retirement accounts and other shared holdings. The judge will also consider each person’s income and may award additional property to one spouse in lieu of or as part of a spousal support arrangement.
Individuals divorcing in California have the option to negotiate a property division agreement that meets the needs of both spouses, even if that does not result in an even split of marital assets.