You've made the decision to file for either a legal separation or divorce
and your assets and debt will need to be divided. If the parties involved
cannot reach a mutually beneficial decision on their own, they will need
to get the courts involved. Our experienced
Orange County divorce attorney dedicated to family law can help you decipher the complex legalities of property division.
Community vs. Separate Property in California
California is one of nine states that has a mandatory community property
requirement. Simply put, monies earned by either party during the time
of marriage or properties purchased with those funds are considered community
property and owned equally by each spouse.
Separate property is any asset owned solely by one spouse. These include
assets acquired before the marriage or domestic partnership, any gifts
or inheritances received solely for a one spouse's benefit, and assets
accrued after an official date of separation.
It may seem straightforward, but determining
what is and is not considered community or separate property can get extremely
W. Douglas McKeague, we can provide you with our lawyer who is ready to facilitate an accurate
and fair evaluation of your properties.
What defines property?
You may think the definition of "property" only includes items
that can be purchased or sold such as your house, vehicles or artwork.
In reality, property includes anything that can be assigned a value.
Examples of what is considered property in California are:
- Stocks and bonds
- Pensions and 401K plans
- Life Insurance policies
- Businesses – both the current and "goodwill" value
- Vacation pay and other employee benefits
More Than one Type of Community Property
Assuming that only assets purchased or operated in California fall under
the umbrella of community property can be a costly misconception. In fact,
if you were living in another state during your marriage or domestic partnership
and acquired property, state law considers those assets to be possible
community property. Essentially, if the assets in question would be considered
community property if they were attained in California, they are categorized
as "quasi-community property" and would be subject to division.
Sometimes things get mixed up. A spouse's separate asset (such as funds
acquired before the marriage) maybe used to obtain a community asset (the
family home.) Both spouses income may be used to pay the mortgage, property
taxes and insurance. The house is now considered a "comingled asset."
Distinguishing just how much of the home's value is a separate asset
and how much is community property is often a confusing and muddled procedure.
Couples facing a divorce or legal separation should contact our knowledgeable
Orange County divorce lawyer who can aid them in untangling their comingled properties.
Who owes what?
California law requires that parties seeking a legal separation or divorce
not only share the wealth, but share the debt, as well. Debts are considered
similarly to property and fall into either separate or community categories.
As with property, the date of separation is extremely important when assigning
debt responsibilities. Parties are liable for any debt incurred by either
spouse during the time of marriage, but not after the separation date.
Clearing the Confusion
You've undoubtedly realized by now that splitting your assets and debts
is not always clear-cut. Determining the differences between separate
and community property and debt is a difficulty that can seem insurmountable.
At W. Douglas McKeague, you will find our attorney is devoted exclusively
to family law, and is familiar with the intricacies of a divorce. Let
our Orange County divorce lawyer help you negotiate a reasonable and equitable
Contact us today for your
free case evaluation