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Which assets are shielded from division in a California divorce?

If you are getting divorced in California, you can expect that you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse will divide the assets you have in half. Each of you will exit the divorce with half of what you accumulated during the marriage, including both assets and debts.

However, there are exceptions to this 50/50 expectation. For instance, anything deemed to be separate property, as opposed to community property, will stay with the individual owner. Below are some examples of separate property that will generally not be eligible for distribution in divorce.

  • Gifts given to one of you by a third party
  • Inheritances naming just one spouse as beneficiary
  • Assets owned before marriage (and kept separate during marriage)
  • Certain loans taken out by one spouse before the marriage, like student loans
  • Property designated as separate in a prenuptial agreement

It is important to note, though, that there are circumstances under which the separate properties mentioned above can become community property. For instance, if you have a separate inheritance but combine that money with your community accounts, or if you use it to purchase community property, then it becomes community property.

Categorizing your property and figuring out what is separate and what belongs to the community is only one challenge associated with this process. And it only becomes more complicated when you have significant or complex assets.

There is a lot at stake when it comes to dividing property in a divorce. It's not just about winning or getting the house; it's about ensuring that your rights and financial well-being are protected now and long after the divorce. With all this in mind, it can be crucial that you work with an attorney familiar with the complexities of property division to secure a fair and accurate settlement.

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