How is Property Divided in a California Divorce?

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When a person goes through a divorce in California, there are certain processes that may transpire differently than in other states, and it is important to understand how to proceed with property division. It has taken decades for California divorce laws to evolve, and for those that have been married in this state, it is essential to research and then hire a lawyer to provide the best possible experience.

Common questions arise through divorce proceedings between spouses, and it is important to research how to progress through each step. However, the divorce itself is based on California law, and going against the processes could lead to severe penalties. This includes attempting to hide assets, show less income than has been earned by either party or seeking to aggravate the concerns through excessive or aggressive conflict. Various sources recommend hiring a lawyer to proceed, and it is generally important to remove any children from the proceedings unless they are needed in the courtroom by the judge or other authority.

In order to know what to divide, it is important to understand what is considered property by the state of California. For separate property to register to a married person, it must meet all the requirements. To divide what is already one spouse’s items, they must have been owned before the marriage initiated. Anything obtained after the marriage commenced such as gifts, or by bequest is considered one party’s over the couple’s items. This includes debts as well to include rent, profits of property and investments and loans in only one name. It is possible to hold property in only one name and then acquire it during divorce proceedings when it is disclosed.

The Division of Property

When someone has purchased property, real estate and other holdings before he or she has entered into a marriage legal in the state of California, he or she is able to retain all of this property after the relationship is dissolved. Unless the items become jointly owned, this even includes when gifts are provided to the other spouse to include real estate property and cash. If one of the two parties owns a building that provides rent, this is still his or her after the marriage ends. However, the same is said of debts such as student loans, business loans, liens on property and other borrowed funds.

Division of assets and property extends to earnings and other accumulated assets that may be acquired by the spouse and any children not of age that live with him or her such as those in custody. This lets the spouse retain his or her separate property, job income and investment revenue when these are not attached to the marriage. It is important to ensure legal separation has been filed for these instances, and the earnings and other accumulations may then be legally separated and divided based on each person no longer working to better the marriage. It may be important to hire a lawyer for these issues if they become complicated or confusing.

The Separation of Relationship and Property

By family codes, the couple must legally separate before a divorce is finalized. Then, each of the party’s earnings, property and other assets are divided after they have lived apart with the judgment being entered. If the couple need to go to court and have a judge preside over the case, he or she may divide the property in a different manner such as separating the assets and debts and evenly distributing them. However, once the two are in different households, it is natural for income and other items acquired during this time to only accumulate for each separate individual.

Because division of property and the divorce proceedings are so complicated, it is advised to hire a family law lawyer to ensure the parties are both aware of the processes and what the divorce itself will entail. However, once the property, holdings and other assets have been determined based on what was previously in possession and that has been accumulated after the separation, it is less difficult to know what should be divided based on what is left from the marriage. The judge will calculate, determine and then modify what remains so that the assets and debts are equally divided.

The Family Law Lawyer in California

It is essential to have a lawyer when going through divorce. He or she may provide information, explain the process and walk the client through the steps.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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