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What do I need to know about property division in California?

One of the most contentious parts of a divorce can be when the time comes to divide up property. Not only is it difficult to unravel all the things you own, it can be painful to assign a value and ownership to everything as well.

With all that you are thinking about during this process, the last thing you want is to feel unprepared and caught off guard. With this in mind, it can be valuable to have some idea of what you can expect from the property division process in California.

Who gets what?

In this state, we observe community property laws. That means that a married couple, as the community, owns the property, assets and debts accumulated during the marriage. When the marriage ends, all those marital assets and debts are divided up equally between the spouses. So, generally speaking, divorcing couples in California can expect that their community assets will be split in half and distributed.

What about separate property?

If you came into the marriage with your own property, or if you as an individual received inheritances or gifts, you could protect that property from being distributed. This can only happen if you are able to prove that it was and still is separate property. Even if something starts as separate property, it can become community property.

Do I have any control over this process?

Yes. You can have a considerable impact on your divorce settlement in a few different ways. You could have a prenuptial agreement in place before you get married. You and your soon-to-be ex could work out a settlement on your own through mediation outside of court. You could also contest business valuations, property ownership and spousal maintenance arrangements, all of which can have a significant effect on how property is ultimately divided.

Considering all that could be at stake in a divorce, it is generally wise to have the guidance of an attorney as you navigate the distribution of assets process. Failure to do so could result in costly mistakes that jeopardize your financial stability now and in the future.

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