California is one of just nine states in the United States considered a “community property” state. In California, each spouse has equal ownership of community property, which is essentially property that both spouses acquired during the marriage. Community property laws aim to simplify property division and distribution; however, it benefits spouses to rely upon a Riverside property division attorney to ensure you are fairly represented in court and to understand the complexities of the laws related to property division.
What is Community Property and Separate Property in California?
Community property laws are applied during a marriage dissolution to figure out the equitable distribution of property to each spouse. The laws work to grant each spouse his fair share of the marital property. Community property is any and all property acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage.
- Any and all income acquired by either spouse
- Retirement accounts, 401(k) plans, stocks, and bonds
- Any real and personal property
- Debts incurred by either spouse
Property stops being considered community property when a couple separates. The exact date may be difficult to pinpoint since separation does not always start when one spouse moves out of the marital home.
California laws identify separate property as property obtained before the marriage or after legal separation or divorce. A spouse may also acquire separate property during the marriage as a gift.
Examples of Separate Property
An example of separate property may be a personal savings account in which one spouse has $10,000. If he or she opened the savings account before marriage and kept it until the termination of the marriage and did not use any of the money to benefit the other spouse, it remains his or her separate property.
However, if the spouse took some of the money and moved it into a joint account, the amount he or she transfers into the joint account becomes commingled and may need to be traced to determine its character.
Dividing Debt in a California Divorce
Like the rest of the marital property, debt is divided evenly between the two spouses in a California divorce. Debt acquired during a marriage becomes the responsibility of both spouses upon divorce, usually even if only one spouse signed for it.
Like separate property, debt that a spouse incurs before marriage or after legally separating remains his or her debt. A Riverside property division lawyer will be able to help you understand how much debt you will likely take on after divorce.
Who Keeps the Marital Home in a California Divorce?
The first factor to consider when determining who keeps the marital home is whether or not the couple seeking divorce share minor children. If minor children are present, the primary custodial parent may petition to keep using the home, even after the divorce is finalized.
The spouse occupying the home will usually be responsible for:
- Paying taxes
- Making mortgage payments
- Paying for property insurance
Sometimes, the spouse occupying the home doesn’t have the income to stay afloat with these payments. In these cases, a plan for what to do with the home will need to be developed.
Spouses who do not have children under 18 may sell the marital home or determine how one spouse may keep the home and ensure the other spouse is compensated for their community interest in the home. The proceeds from the sale will be subjected to California’s property division laws.
For more information about property division in Riverside, work with the compassionate attorneys of Bratton Razo & Lord. We have helped families throughout San Bernardino County achieve fairness in these proceedings. Call (951) 684-9000 for a free consultation or connect with us.