California Property Division Factors: Is CA a 50-50 State?
Pop culture tells us that when you divorce, you and your spouse each get half. While that’s true in some states, it’s not true in every state. Some states are known as “community property” states, which means that marital property is, indeed, split evenly. Other states are known as “equitable distribution” states, which means that property is split according to the principles of equity and fairness as opposed to an effort at a perfect 50/50 split. Read on to learn where California falls and how courts apportion property in a California divorce. If you have questions about a pending divorce or property division matter in Southern California, call a knowledgeable Claremont divorce and property division lawyer for advice and assistance.
California is a Community Property State
California is a community property state. That means that California law aims to simplify the divorce process by splitting the apportionment of community assets/marital property evenly between the parties. Rather than ask about the principles of equity and fairness, California courts simply ask whether the property is community or separate property. If it’s community property, meaning property belonging to the marriage, then the property is split 50/50 between the parties.
What is Community Property?
Community property refers to all property that belongs to the marital community or marital estate. In practice, that means just about all property acquired, income earned, or debts generated during the marriage. Everything from bank accounts, homes, cars, to investment accounts, stocks, and business ownership interests acquired during the marriage count as community property. Some types of property are harder to value (such as business ownership), and some may require extra steps to legally permit division (such as certain retirement accounts), but if acquired during the marriage, they are community property subject to division.
Property acquired before the marriage is “separate property” not subject to division. Additionally, property acquired by inheritance or by gift specifically to one spouse might be considered separate property even if acquired during the marriage. On the other hand, if a separate asset is mingled with community property, then the asset could become a community asset in part or in whole (such as if a house is purchased before the marriage but community income is used to renovate and otherwise expand the value of the house).
Can You Split Property Other Than 50/50?
The community property rules and 50/50 split are the default rules for a California divorce. That does not mean the parties are bound by those rules. Parties can sign a prenuptial agreement before the marriage that restricts which property and income do or will belong to each party. Upon divorce, the parties can negotiate and reach a settlement regarding property division that divides property other than 50/50. For example, the parties might agree that one spouse will keep ownership of the family business while the other spouse will get the house and certain other assets, based on their preferences and ability to negotiate amicably. Judges will typically sign off on settlement agreements so long as there is no reason to believe the agreement is egregious or against public policy (e.g., a court might not sign off if one spouse gets virtually nothing in the settlement, suggesting that they did not truly enter the agreement voluntarily).
Call a seasoned California family law attorney at Blasser Law for assistance with a dispute over property division, divorce, or any other California family law matter. The savvy and professional Claremont divorce legal team at Blasser Law is ready to assist clients with any family law concerns in the San Gabriel Valley or Los Angeles County. Contact our family law office at 877-927-2181.