Many California residents considering divorce may get information from questionable sources. Even people you trust and respect may leave out critical details or exaggerate when describing the outcome of a divorce. That can leave you with very skewed ideas of what happens when the courts handle the division of your assets and possessions.
If you have a valid prenuptial agreement on record, that can help guide the process. Reviewing the document for any terms about asset division can help you understand what to expect. For people without a prenuptial agreement, the options are to either work out a solution with your spouse for an uncontested divorce or to ask the courts to intervene and make critical decisions for you. Knowing how California law works can help you understand likely outcomes.
California is a community property state
When reviewing the assets and debts acquired during marriage, California family courts will assume that all income and assets acquired during the marriage are community property. That means that they belong to both spouses, regardless of who worked or earned more.
While many people think of 50/50 division of assets as standard in community property states, the outcome can deviate from that. Certain sizable assets in your marriage may have been gifts or inheritances. Many times, these items remain separate property that is not subject to division in a divorce.
Different issues in your marriage or divorce could impact how the courts decide to divide your assets and debts. The courts will look at a number of factors. While they will not consider fault in the end of the marriage, they will consider other factors, like dissipation of marital assets, child support and spousal support.
Most debts from a marriage end up split as well
Unless you have documentation that shows a debt may be indicative of intentional dissipation, community property laws typically extend to debts as well as assets. Expenses accrued while one partner is conducting an extramarital affair, for example, will likely not get divided. Any other debts incurred during your marriage, even if they are only in the name of one spouse, may end up split. Even student loans, if taken out to pursue a job that could support the family, could end up divided between both spouses.
In order to ensure the asset division process is as fair as possible, you and your spouse will need to provide the courts with documentation about your financial situation. This will include an inventory of all valuable assets, current liabilities and debts. This special inventory provides the basis upon which the court builds the asset division plan for your marriage. Incorrect information or hidden assets could result in an outcome that is not fair to both parties.