How Property Is Divided In A California Divorce

By The Law Offices of Ronald K. Stitch|April 14, 2021

When you think of divvying up property, you may think about everything you own. But when it comes to a divorce proceeding, you also have to think about how to split up the various debts you owe. You must first categorize your property and decide who will get what. This is where it would be so nice if everyone could get along. If you and your soon-to-be ex-partner agree, you can save time and money and likely experience a lot of unpleasantness. Unfortunately, emotions often run high in divorce proceedings, and help is necessary to divide the one pile into two.

At the Law Offices of Ronald K. Stitch, our Westlake Village property division attorneys support our clients and help them work through the problematic issues that can come up when a jointly owned property must be divided.

How Property is Owned in California

Entering a marriage or domestic partnership does not automatically convert all your property into property owned by both partners. The law in California presumes that all property acquired during the legal union is owned equally by both people. However, that presumption can change if both parties agree to a different property division – before or after their union. Of course, each person’s relative bargaining positions will be considered if a property division seems too one-sided. 

In California, three property types are to be identified in a divorce

  1. Community Property: California is a community property state. That means that each partner owns one-half of all the property acquired during the marriage and is responsible for half the debt. 
  2. Separate Property: Separate property includes any property owned before marriage and any property acquired during marriage by gift or inheritance. The distinction between community and separate property can become blurred when a separate property becomes ‘commingled’ with community property. When that happens, one property can be part community and part separate. 
  3. Quasi-Community Property: Because most states do not follow the community property rule, a couple may have purchased the property in a non-community property state, which defines ownership differently. In those cases, California considers it community property; anything purchased would have been community property if it had been bought in California. 

How Property is Divided in a Divorce

Once all the owned property has been categorized, the community and quasi-community property (and debt) must be divided equally. Two routes exist to accomplish this.

Even when parties are agreeable about dividing jointly owned property, they may need legal advice because it is only sometimes feasible to divide all properties or debts in half, and trade-offs might be necessary to reach an equitable division. It is also essential to ensure that creditors, whichever party, agrees to take over a particular debt. 

Having to divide property means having to give up something that you considered was yours. Nobody likes to do that. The Westlake Village property division lawyers at the Law Offices of Ronald K. Stitch have learned that our clients appreciate objective advice and expertise when dividing their property and helping them move forward. If there are issues you want to discuss, you can contact us for a free consultation by clicking here or calling 818-707-0202.

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