When you think of divvying up property you may think about all the stuff you own. But when it comes to a divorce proceeding, you also have to think about how to split up the various debts you owe. You first need to categorize your property and then decide who is going to get what. This is where it would be so nice if everyone could get along. Because if you and your soon-to-be ex-partner could come to an agreement you can save time, money, and likely a lot of unpleasantness. Unfortunately, emotions often run high in divorce proceedings and help is necessary to divide the one pile into two.
At the Law Offices of Ronald K. Stitch, our Westlake Village property division attorneys support our clients and help them work through the difficult issues that can come up when a jointly owned property must be divided.
How Property is Owned in California
Entering a marriage or domestic partnership does not automatically convert all your property into property owned by both partners. The law in California presumes that all property acquired during the legal union is owned equally by both people. But that presumption can be changed if both parties agree to a different property division – either before or after their union. Of course, the relative bargaining positions of each person will be taken into consideration if a property division seems too one-sided.
- Community Property: California is a community property state. That means that each partner owns one-half of all the property that was acquired during the marriage. It also means that each partner is responsible for one-half of all the debt that was acquired.
- Separate Property: Property that is separately owned is any property that was owned prior to marriage and any property that was acquired during marriage by gift or inheritance. The distinction between community property and separate property can become blurred when a separate property becomes ‘commingled’ with community property. When that happens, one property can be part community and part separate.
- Quasi-Community Property: Because the majority of states do not follow the community property rule, a couple may have purchased the property in a non-community property state which defines ownership differently. In those cases, California considers it as community property anything purchased that would have been community property if it were purchased in California.
How Property is Divided in a Divorce
Once all of the owned property has been categorized, the community and quasi-community property (and debt) will need to be divided as equally as possible. There are two routes to getting this accomplished.
- Uncontested: Parties without complex properties and that can come to a workable agreement may do so without court intervention – through a court must sign-off in order for the division to be legal.
- Contested: If the parties cannot agree on a division of their property then a more formal proceeding will be required. That might be through mediation or it could involve a full-blown trial depending on how hotly the issues are contested.
Even when parties are agreeable about dividing jointly owned property, they may need some legal advice because it is not always feasible to divide all properties or debts right in half and trade-offs might be necessary to get to an equitable division. It is also important to make sure any creditors now recognize only whichever party agreed to take over a particular debt.
Having to divide property means having to give up something that you considered was yours. Nobody really likes to do that. The Westlake Village property division lawyers at the Law Offices of Ronald K. Stitch have learned that our clients appreciate objective advice and expertise when it comes to dividing their property and helping them to move forward. If there are issues you would like to discuss, you can contact us for a free consultation by clicking here or by calling 818-237-4574.