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Understanding Marital Property in California Divorces

When a married couple makes the difficult decision to divorce, there are a number of critical issues to consider. One is the division of marital assets and property. Since married couples will generally purchase goods together and commingle their assets, the lines of ownership can often become blurred. Should a couple make the decision to divorce, most states will generally consider two types of property – separate property, and marital or community property.

Is California a Community Property State?

California is known as a “community property” state. That means that any and all property, assets, and debt acquired before physical separation are presumed, under existing state law, to be subject to an equal division between spouses or domestic partners in the event of separation or divorce.

For example, any funds earned through work that are used to pay household bills would qualify as marital property. Similarly, the familial home would often qualify as a marital asset.

While this is a non-issue for happily married couples, it can grow to become a significant headache in the event of a divorce. Any items that are purchased or acquired by a couple during the course of their marriage will generally be considered “marital property.” Since the division of marital property can be a highly stressful issue, it’s important to understand the marital property laws in your state and prepare to negotiate in the event of divorce.

If you have any questions or concerns about the division of marital property or how our lawyer can help you, contact us at (310) 929-6411 today for a free consultation.

Distinguishing Separate Property from Marital Assets

Unlike marital property, separate property refers to any assets or property that were owned before the couple entered into a relationship or marriage. The term also applies to property acquired as an inheritance during the marriage or assets that were acquired as a gift.

It’s important to note that any property or assets acquired prior to a couple’s date of separation, but prior to a divorce, would also be considered separate property.

A couple does not need to vacate the marital home in order for a date of separation to be established, however. That is established once a spouse elects to end the marriage and then moves forward with an act of physical separation. Generally, this occurs when a spouse moves out of the marital bedroom.

How California Divorce Law Affects Property Division

While California State law does not necessarily require an “in kind,” or physical division of marital assets, the law does require that the net value of the marital assets be split equally. In the state of California, spouses have the option to divide assets by designating specific terms. While one spouse may elect to “buy out” the other’s shares of a marital asset in order to sell the proceeds, both spouses may also choose to hold their assets together until the divorce is finalized. This is generally a choice when the couple has children that are residing in the shared home.

So while one spouse may retain the family home, the other may be awarded the family business or another real estate investment, so long as the two are equivalent in value.

A divorcing couple must also assign any and all debt that’s accrued during the marriage, including:

  • Car loans
  • Mortgages
  • Credit card debts

Many couples do not realize that a separation or divorce is not binding in the eyes of creditors. It’s important to realize that creditors will continue to attempt to make good on any collections that are jointly owed from either spouse, so long as a debt exists.

Should a debt be “owed” by one spouse, it is possible for the other to request the court place something known as a lien on their separate property, in order to secure repayment of the debt.

Transmutation: Changing Property Character During Divorce

It’s also possible for, during the division of property, the character of a property to change through something known as transmutation. This essentially meant that a property is changing from a separate to a marital property or vice versa.

This can be accomplished in a number of ways, such as:

  • Having a property jointly titled in the names of each spouse
  • Reaching an agreement between both spouses
  • Commingling marital and separate properties
  • Giving the property as a gift

Need Help with Property Division? Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you or someone you love is currently dealing with divorce, it is important that you enlist the guidance of a Los Angeles divorce attorney as soon as possible. Only an attorney experienced in family law issues can help you effectively navigate this complex process, especially when it comes to the division of marital property.

In the greater Los Angeles area, the legal team at Lavinsky Law helps couples deal with a number of complex family law-related issues, including the division of marital property. Our team of highly skilled professionals can work with you and your spouse’s legal team to establish an agreement regarding the division of all marital assets as quickly and effectively as possible.

We understand that dealing with a divorce is never easy. That’s why our firm is committed to doing everything we can to help protect your future interests.

To schedule a free initial consultation with our legal team to discuss the division of your marital property, contact our Los Angeles law office today at (310) 929-6411.

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