Property division is often one of the most complex and contentious parts of any divorce proceeding. During property division, the court decides how parties will divide marital property, including assets and debts.
Knowing what to expect from the property division process in California, and how you should prepare for it, can help you tackle your property division case with more confidence.
How Does Property Division Work in California?
California is a "community property" state, which means that the court divides all property acquired during the marriage, or to which both parties contributed throughout the marriage, equally.
It's important to note that separate property can become marital property over time. For example, if you own a house, but your spouse then pays for an addition on the house, the house becomes marital property because both parties contributed to the property's value. The same principle applies to other assets, such as businesses and investment accounts.
Unlike some other states, California is also a "no-fault" state with regards to marriage. That means that the only acceptable grounds for divorce in California is irreconcilable differences between the spouses—you can't file for divorce on the grounds of adultery, verbal abuse, or another similar action.
However, those actions may still play a role in a property division case. For example, let's say your ex commits adultery and withdraws funds from a shared bank account to buy their new partner a gift. The court may order your soon-to-be-ex to compensate you for whatever amount they withdrew in the property division process.
Property Division Must-Haves
If you're about to tackle a property division case, acting proactively can help make the process easier. Here are some things you should do before the proceedings for your property division case begin:
- Take an inventory of all your property (and catalog it for evidence). During the process, the court will ask you to provide a comprehensive list of all your separate and marital property, so take an inventory now. Omitting items during this process may result in legal penalties, so leave nothing out. If you can, take photos of all your assets and make copies of any relevant financial documents, such as revenue for a business you own or bank account statements. Store the evidence in a safety deposit box that your soon-to-be-ex can't access. If your ex destroys, sells, or taints any property in an attempt to get a more favorable judgment, having evidence on-hand can allow you to recoup your losses and swing the case in your favor.
- Try to value your property. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who specializes in asset evaluation can tell you how much your marital property is worth. If you operate under the assumption that all marital property will be split between you and your ex 50/50, knowing how much your assets are worth ahead of time can allow you to prepare financially for the outcome of your case.
- Don't forget to take your liabilities into account. Liabilities such as debt also get divided between parties during the property division process. You should try and find any marital liabilities you have (such as a joint mortgage on a house) so you can determine how it will affect the division of property.
Taking the right steps in your property division case can make the process significantly smoother. At Myers Family Law, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients navigate property division cases.
To receive a consultation from our team, contact us onlineor give us a call at (916) 634-0067.