Getting a divorce is never easy, no matter how amicable things are between you and your spouse. The most challenging part of the divorce for many couples is dividing up the assets they acquired during their marriage. California is a community property state, meaning that each spouse is entitled to 50 percent of the marital assets and debts, unless there is a prenuptial agreement or other agreement in place stating otherwise.
Marital vs. separate property
While it may seem straightforward, dividing things evenly between divorcing spouses is not always as easy as it sounds. First, all assets and debts are classified as either marital property or separate property.
Generally, marital property refers to property acquired during the marriage or property purchased with marital funds. Marital assets may include the family home, vehicles, joint bank accounts, and retirement accounts. Marital property will be split equally between both spouses in the divorce.
Separate property, on the other hand, refers to property that was acquired by one spouse before the marriage. It can also include inheritances, damages awarded in a personal injury lawsuit, and gifts intended for only one spouse. Separate property will typically be awarded to the owner in the divorce.
However, if marital funds are used to contribute to separate property (e.g. using money from a joint account to make car payments on one spouse’s vehicle), the separate property may be treated as marital property in the divorce.
Property valuation may be necessary
Because not all property can be physically split down the middle, there will also need to be a valuation of all marital assets to ensure that each spouse is getting their fair share. A family law attorney in your area can help make sure all property is valued correctly and protect your best interests throughout the property division process.