California property division: Things to know before divorce

Deciding that a marriage is over is an intensely personal decision. Such a decision often leads to divorce and property division proceedings. It is always a good idea to learn about the ins and outs of such proceedings in California ahead of time, rather than possibly facing unexpected surprises in court.  

A basic factor that determines how the court will divide marital assets between spouses in divorce is the court's location. Most states operate under equitable property division rules, which means a judge overseeing a case will determine a fair, though perhaps not equal, division of property. Nine states, however, including California, operate under community property rules, which means all marital assets are typically split 50/50 in divorce.  

Community versus separate property issues can be complex. For instance, a spouse may inherit money that a benefactor has expressly intended only for him or her. However, if he or she deposits that money into a jointly owned bank account, the court may decide it has become community property because it has been commingled in a financial account established during marriage.  

Additional issues, such as assets tied up in a business or which spouse (if either) will keep the marital home, may prompt litigation if spouses are unable to come to an agreement on their own. An experienced California family law attorney can provide guidance and support to help avoid property division problems in divorce. Even if a spouse agrees to try to resolve such issues out of court, it can be helpful to have legal representation present during negotiations.

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