One of the most complicated and contentious aspects of a divorce involves the division of assets and debts. Splitting up your property and money can be very upsetting not only because of the logistical issues that can arise but also because of the fact that it can make people feel very uneasy to lose roughly half of their assets.
As difficult as this process can be, it is unavoidable when two people divorce. Property must be divided so that each spouse can walk away from the marriage with a fair settlement and as few financial ties to an ex as possible. Knowing what to expect and what may happen to your property and debts during this time can ease some of the anxiety that you are likely feeling if you are at this point.
Generally speaking, all the property, money and debts that have accumulated during the time two people are married is considered community property in California. This means it is owned by the community, or the married couple. During division of property, all community property will be evaluated and itemized, then divided equally between spouses.
However, there are some assets that do not get divided. These are called separate assets. These are items, properties, homes or inheritances that were or are owned just by one spouse and typically accumulated before two people got married.
Dividing community property and debts may seem relatively simple on the surface. People add up the numbers in their bank accounts, figure out how much each asset is worth, subtract the debts and end up with a figure that can just be divided in half. Unfortunately, it is not necessarily that simple.
The assets divided in a divorce aren't just piles of money that can be split up and handed over to each person. There typically is a balancing process involved, so one spouse may keep a huge asset like the house but have to take over more debt so that the other spouse receives money that matches the value of the house. This can be extremely complex.
Thankfully, you don't have to go through all this alone if you are in this situation. You can work with an attorney who is familiar with the property division laws and procedures in California.