Each state takes a slightly different approach to dividing property when married couples divorce. In California, courts generally treat all of the property acquired during a marriage as community property.
If divorcing spouses cannot agree about how to divide their assets, courts will usually distribute this property equally. Here are some things that you should know about dividing property during divorce proceedings.
Only marital property is subject to division
A divorce does not necessarily mean losing half of everything that you have. Property that you owned before marriage will not be subject to division unless you co-mingle it with property jointly owned by you and your spouse. Also, gifts and inheritances are typically exempt from property division in California.
Your spouse may be able to collect part of your retirement savings or pension
Contributions that you make to a retirement or pension account before your marriage shall remain yours. However, contributions that you make to a pension plan during your marriage become marital property that your spouse can claim half of.
Debt is also split equally
You and your spouse will also divide any debt that you may have down the middle. Even if one spouse is wholly responsible for accumulating debt due to financial mismanagement, you may still own half of that debt after you dissolve your marriage.
Even where couples are able to reach a mutual agreement, they still need a judge to enter an order on what they have agreed to. Until a judge gives legal effect to an agreement, any property shall remain jointly owned.