Property Division in California

Property Division in California

Property Division in California

Property Division Process in Orange County, CA

Property Division in California


Everything is usually divided fairly equally when dividing property and debt, where both parties get roughly the same value. This, however, is a lot easier said than done. State laws on divorce matters and legal separation actions can be confusing, including those on property division.

If you are planning a divorce filing or legal separation, seek reliable legal assistance from a law office specializing in legal separation or divorce proceedings. Our Orange County, CA, divorce lawyers, can help you get a divorce and deal with property division while minimizing stressful proceedings.

This article explores property division after divorce. It is composed of six sections, as follows:

  • Getting Legal Help When Getting Divorced
  • Filing for Divorce in California
  • Looking into Common Divorce Cases
  • An Overview of Community Property
  • An Overview of Equitable Distribution
  • Call a Local Attorney from a Credible Family Law Firm

Many people are confused about what the term dissolution of marriage means. The best way for the family court system to protect their legal rights is to file a divorce petition for some married couples. For others, it is to file for legal separation. A hands-on legal professional experienced with divorce and family law cases can help you choose the best option.

No two couples have the exact contexts and experiences. There are many reasons why a married couple would file a divorce. Whatever the reason, however, going through a divorce is something that you should take seriously. Here, a seasoned family law attorney in Orange County can provide quality legal services.

Aside from the complexities of the required court forms and paperwork, it is essential to keep in mind that you must consider relevant statutes. Keep in mind that child custody laws and spousal support, and child support guidelines vary from state to state. The same is true for pertinent state law on the division of marital property. Here, an experienced California family lawyer can help you evaluate your situation and carefully explore all available options.

Filing for Divorce in California

Couples end their marriage for different reasons. The legal grounds for divorce can be difficult to understand, so it is essential to think through them before proceeding. Once you finalize your decision to file divorce papers, the first step in the process is to get a reliable divorce attorney in California.

Divorce documents can be pretty confusing. Add to this the fact that California has strict divorce laws. In general, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of California for at least six months and have been a resident in the county (where you will file the divorce) for a minimum of three months before filing the divorce petition.

In the case of same-sex marriages, there are instances when spouses may push through with the divorce procedure (and be able to get a judgment) even if neither is a resident of California at the time of the proceedings. If the couple entered the marriage in California and neither spouse is living in a state, that will dissolve the marriage.

At present, there are still states that do not recognize such a marriage. Therefore, such marriage will presumably not be dissolved in that state as well. In this case, the same-sex spouse shall file in the superior court in the county where they entered the marriage.

If you are planning on filing a divorce, you need someone who can help you file and fill out paperwork. Seek legal help from someone experienced with marital separation, dividing property, and other family law cases filed with the divorce court. 

Looking into Common Divorce Cases

Under relevant divorce law, it is possible to obtain a divorce based on the following reasons or grounds:

  • Irreconcilable difference

These pertain to differences that led to the permanent breakdown of the marriage.

  • Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions

A competent medical or psychiatric testimony may prove that the spouse was and still lacks the legal capacity to make decisions.

In a petition for dissolution of marriage, it is possible (although rare) that both parties mutually agree upon all crucial aspects.

In an uncontested divorce case, the married couple generally agrees on how the dissolution of marriage takes place. Under the uncontested divorce process, spouses may go through internal negotiation and decide on matters related to the petition for divorce, including division of property. In doing so, they avoid facing a messy trial in court.

In a contested divorce petition, meanwhile, divorcing parties disagree on one or more legal issues. Here, the division of marital property and debts and finances shall be decided upon through a court hearing. In cases where it is impossible to negotiate and eventually agree on these things, couples become financially and emotionally drained. 

Regardless of the type, it is important to seek reliable legal representation before proceeding.

An Overview of Community Property

The two main types of property division laws are community property and equitable distribution. In California, community property and community debts are often divided equally within a marriage. This means that each spouse or domestic partner owns half of the community property. The same goes for half of the debt. 

What is earned during the marriage?

The Community property usually pertains to everything that spouses or domestic partners own together, such as those bought within the marriage or domestic partnership. All that is earned as a couple or individually (by either spouse or partner) during the marriage is also considered community property. Gifts or inheritances are often treated differently.

In general, if you earned the purchase money during the marriage, the property belongs to the community. This would mean that anything bought from savings from one’s paycheck is community property, even if you bought it ‘by yourself.’ The same would apply to a pension plan, mainly if you purchased it through earnings during the marriage or partnership.

Given the above, many people are not aware that their actual community property is beyond what they think. At the same time, however, many people are not aware that they have more community debts than they realize.

What is owed during the marriage?

The term community property also covers debts and other financial obligations accumulated during the partnership or marriage. If you incurred the debt while you were married, you still own half of it, even if it is in your spouse or partner’s name.

Even if a credit card in question is in the name of only one spouse or partner, or even if you are not aware of the debt incurred by only one of you, it is considered a community debt.

An Overview of Equitable Distribution

California is one of just nine community property states in the country. The family court will evenly split all assets and debts acquired during a marriage or domestic partnership in a community property state. The assumption is that both parties have equal rights to all assets, properties, and financial obligations the couple accumulated during the marriage.

This is in contrast to an equitable distribution state, where property division will not necessarily be 50-50. A judge may grant unequal division based on what is reasonable and fair according to the circumstances. Common factors considered include the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s contribution to the wedding, each spouse’s income, and the ability to earn income.

If a set-up similar to this is preferred, couples often try to negotiate and come up with an agreement on their own. If you and your spouse already have a list of property that you would want to acquire, compromising might not be as difficult. The same goes if you have decided on debts that you are willing to take responsibility for.

In some instances, mediators may help negotiate property divisions. Here, the divorce case will only be subject to court-imposed community property laws if it goes to trial.

Call a Local Attorney from a Credible Family Law Firm

Separation agreements and divorce filings involve a lot of money: alimony, child support payments, division of property. More than these, however, the actual cost of a divorce or legal separation can be seen in what couples have to go through emotionally. 

If you are considering divorce or legal separation, it is crucial to get reliable legal advice. A dedicated Orange County divorce lawyer can explain what will happen before, during, and after getting divorced or legally separated.

Contact our Orange County, CA divorce law firm if you need assistance with property division after a legal separation or divorce filing in California. Our family law attorneys at Trevino Law can provide the legal help that you need.

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