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Why Marital Property Classification Matters In California Divorce

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

A Guide On Marital Property, Division, And Your Rights To Them In California

In contentious divorce proceedings, ex-spouses frequently differ on how certain marital properties should be classified, disposed of, or divided. Unless you have a highly-detailed prenuptial agreement on which assets go to who, dividing property can be a particularly tricky step in a divorce.

That said, how is marital property divided in California? Who gets what?


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What's A California Divorce Lawyer's Goal In Marital Property Division?

Each spouse should receive nearly the same amount of property, so all assets should be divided equally. Couples are not forced to sell everything and split the proceeds, but the court may mandate that it be done if the parties cannot agree.

Compromises must be made. A spouse's desire to maintain more liquid assets (such as bank or stock accounts) can be countered by allocating joint debt to that spouse. Always aim for an equal net share, or the worth of the allotted property after deducting the assigned, for each spouse.


Another crucial point to remember is that the marital settlement agreement must be included in the court's ruling once the property has been divided and the debt has been allocated to one spouse. In this manner, it is enforceable just like any other financial judgment.

Why Do You Need A Divorce Lawyer In Los Angeles?

A prescreened Divorce Attorney in California can help you with the following essential steps in marital property division:

  • Make sure your specific property is not misclassified and is divided equally.

  • Make sure you receive your 50% share of any community assets.

  • Make sure you are not skipping the tracing or apportioning of property.

Your Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer can help you review your assets, classify them, and ensure you get what legally belongs to you.


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Three Types Of Marital Property In California

The division of properties depends on how an asset is classified. For example, some marital properties are legally required to be divided equally among ex-spouses, while some can be kept as they are.


Here are the three types of marital properties:


1. Community Property


The term "community property" describes the assets that spouses share. Since California is a community property state where all assets and obligations are divided equally unless otherwise agreed, property definition is crucial.


So, how can a house or a piece of land be equally divided between two people? First, you must determine if it is separate or community property before giving each asset a monetary value. This ensures that every party gets equal value in the divided assets. For example, if a house is worth the price of two small apartment units, one person getting the house and the other getting the two apartments is an equal property division.


That said, spouses frequently find it challenging to reach a consensus on the worth of each item. In this situation, financial experts and consultants are a massive help during the decision-making process. You can divide the money yourselves if you and your partner get along well. The courts, though, can also get involved.


2. Separate Property

If there are resources that predate the marriage, they are referred to as separate property. Since the separate property is owned entirely by one spouse, it is often excluded from the property split process following divorce. Instead, it is typically obtained through gifts, heirlooms, and/or real estate purchased before the marriage or after the date of separation.


Though it may seem straightforward, determining whether the property is community or separate can be time-consuming and challenging.


3. Mixed Property


A third property classification is called mixed property, a mix of the first two listed. To make it easier to understand, here are examples of mixed marital property:

  • A car or a house one spouse purchased before marriage that they continued to pay for with their shared income after marrying.

  • One spouse got an inheritance, presumed to be separate property, but transferred the funds into a joint account while still married.

This makes mixed property somewhat challenging to wrangle with, depending on the ex-spouses' willingness to make compromises.


Other Things That Can Happen In Property Division Process In California

A person may also purchase the other person's share of an asset if they so desire. Technically, the partition of property is not required to happen at the time of separation. After their divorce, a couple can keep the property in both names. Debts often belong to one spouse or the other, although they can sometimes be split equally between them.


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Get A Referral To A Prescreened California Divorce Lawyer ASAP!

The divorce process entails a lot of financial and emotional wrangling. 1000Attorneys can refer you to an experienced and trusted divorce attorney in Los Angeles in minutes.

Contact us through our inquiry form or 24/7 live chat service to get started!

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