Typically, married couples own property and assets together. In the event of divorce, these assets must be divided between the spouses. Property division in a divorce is a legally complex process and has the power to shape your financial future long-term. Given these high stakes, disputes often arise regarding the division of assets in a divorce. Many people seek guidance from a Los Angeles division of assets lawyer to ensure that such matters are negotiated carefully and peacefully, with their best interests in mind.
At Diaz Law Firm, we work closely with California families to divide assets and property following a divorce, ensuring that their goals and objectives are prioritized during the process. We fight for justice, equality, and peace of mind. To learn more about how experienced attorney Cheryl Deptowicz-Diaz can help, consider contacting the Los Angeles office at (626) 261-0402 today.
How Does Division of Assets Work in a Divorce?
The guidelines used during the division of assets in a divorce depend entirely on state family law. Generally, states utilize either community property or equitable division guidelines to divide property following a divorce. The laws in California have established it as a community property state rather than an equitable division state. This means that assets and property are considered to be jointly owned by the couple, with no concept of “who earned it, keeps it.”
Under the community property system, the courts must first determine which assets and property are considered community property and which are considered separate property. Then, everything that is considered community property will be divided equally between the spouses. Each spouse is typically entitled to maintain sole ownership of their separate property.
Common Assets Involved in a Divorce
Since California is a community property state, it is important to understand the different types of assets and how they will be divided in the event of a divorce. The most common types of assets that the California courts will seek to inventory and classify during the division of assets in a divorce include the following:
- Home and real estate
- Retirement accounts and benefits, such as a pensions
Classification of Assets and Property in a Divorce
To divide these shared assets, the courts will first determine whether the asset is considered community property, separate property, or premarital property. This classification will matter greatly during property division in a divorce. The differences in these forms of property can be summarized as follows:
- Community Property: This property refers to everything that was earned by each spouse throughout the duration of the marriage and all property that was acquired as a result (Section 760 of the California Family Code). It also includes most debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage, with the exception of debts tied to separate property, such as student loans that were used to finance education before the marriage.
- Separate Property: This property refers to what each spouse owned individually before they were married, as well as any gifts, inheritance, or property acquired before your marriage and after the date of separation. In these cases, it is important to formally recognize your date of separation to facilitate a smoother division of assets. A Los Angeles division of assets lawyer can help navigate the date of separation and property division in a divorce.
- Premarital Property: This property refers to the assets that were acquired before the marriage – i.e., premarital property – is typically considered separate and belongs to the spouse who acquired it. In some cases, however, the premarital property can become community property during the marriage.
What Is Commingling in California?
As mentioned, separate property can morph into community property during the marriage. Commingling is one way that this can happen. If the separate or premarital property is combined with community property, it can be difficult to differentiate ownership. This will cause the otherwise separate property to transmute into community property. If, for example, one spouse places their inheritance into a joint bank account, the commingling of the properties may occur, and dividing these assets will be much more difficult. Utilizing a prenuptial agreement is one method to avoid this challenge and ensure that premarital property remains legally separate.
Frequently Asked Questions
At Diaz Law Firm, we have been guiding families through the asset and property division process for well over a decade. The following are two of the most frequently asked questions regarding property division in a divorce.
How Do I Protect My Assets in a Divorce?
Fortunately, there are different strategies that can be used to protect your assets in a divorce. Being proactive and developing an effective asset protection plan is essential to ensuring a smooth division of assets in a divorce. Some strategies that we utilize to protect client assets include:
- Establish a prenuptial agreement or a trust to protect separate assets.
- Avoid commingling assets.
- Maintain up-to-date records of major transactions and other key financial documentation.
- Understand California asset division laws to avoid common pitfalls that occur during asset division.
Who Gets the House in a Divorce?
One of the most contentious issues that arise during property division in a divorce is who will maintain ownership of the family home. Many times, if the home is considered entirely community property, the couple will choose to sell the property and split the proceeds evenly. Alternatively, one spouse may buy out the other’s community property interest, typically including one-half of the equity and a modification of the mortgage to remove the other spouse. It should be noted that in some cases, a buyout can be offset against other property.
Hiring a Lawyer Experienced in Division of Assets Near You
The division of assets in a divorce can be an extremely tumultuous process. Many times, divorcing spouses have conflicting interests or disagreements regarding what is considered community property and what is separate. This can prolong the divorce and result in serious disputes. Seeking assistance from an experienced Los Angeles division of assets lawyer can help to mitigate these issues and help move towards a possible peaceful negotiation. Experienced family law attorney Cheryl Deptowicz-Diaz can implement specific strategies to protect your assets and uphold your interests. To begin the process of protecting your property during a divorce, consider contacting Diaz Law Firm to schedule a consultation or phone us at (626) 261-0402 today.