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Divorce: How is property divided in California?

California is a community property state. This means that in the event of a divorce or the death of one spouse, assets will be equally divided -- unless otherwise stipulated in a prenuptial agreement. All the property that a couple acquires during their marriage will be community property that will belong to both parties.

Community property typically includes wage earnings of both spouses, along with the family home and its contents -- everything that was financed by marital income. Income from the interest on business operations and investments will also be divisible, and so will any debts -- including the mortgage. However, the property that will remain separate includes assets owned by one spouse before the marriage, inheritances or gifts received during their marriage, and any income earned after the separation date.

Property can only remain separate if it was not commingled during the marriage. Some couples unknowingly commingle funds. These can include individually held bank accounts, gifts, inheritances and proceeds one spouse received from a personal injury settlement. Property that was separate might be regarded as community property if the assets were commingled.

However, even in a community property state like California, the court may not divide everything on a 50/50 basis. After considering different aspects, it might determine that the division must be disproportionate. Those who are considering divorce might be wise to consult with an experienced divorce attorney to learn more about property division and how they can protect their interests. A lawyer can also explain the different divorce options along with the pros and cons of each.

Source: FindLaw, "Community Property Overview", Accessed on Feb. 26, 2018

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