This article is not intended to be construed as legal advice. It is for informational purposes only, offering insights and awareness into the complex nature of division of assets in divorce. Dividing and proving ownership of assets is difficult. Speaking with an experienced attorney is an advisable way to make sure your rights are safeguarded.
Assets are property, anything that has value or can be bought or sold, like a house, automobiles, furniture and clothing. It also includes bank accounts, cash, security deposits, pension plans, 401(k) plans, stocks, insurance with cash value, businesses and more. Other items of value could include antiques, collectibles, ownership interest, or stock options. Even if you decide your own division of assets, court makes the final decision on property acquired during the marriage. Then the court will formalize the arrangement by putting the division of assets in the final divorce agreement.
You and your spouse can resolve these issues without a judge present. In fact, couples often divide their property as well as their debts through an agreement. When the divorce is finalized, the judge still has to sign off on your agreement. Until that moment, both of you own assets obtained during the marriage or domestic partnership. Which spouse has control of the asset does not change this.
Division of Assets
The division of assets is critical to what you will be able to access during your fresh start following the divorce. To familiarize you with the normal process, we will touch on some basics. Please note, division of assets in a divorce are rarely basic. California is a community property state. Assets acquired during the marriage or registered partnership are “community” and are normally split equally between the spouses or partners.
Spouses or partners can agree, either prior to marriage (as in a prenuptial agreement) or during a marriage ( also in an agreement) that a property is separate. They can also determine that a property is communal as long as the agreement is in writing and state the intentions of the party clearly.
One of the most asked questions is “When does separate property become community property in California?” Accidental commingling of property can happen when separate property is combined with marital property. A house owned by one spouse can become communal property if both spouses pay the mortgage and maintenance on it. There can also be quasi community property. An example of a partially separate asset is a business that was started by one spouse before marriage and continued after marriage.
When It Gets Complicated
Division of assets can quickly become extremely complex. Especially when one spouse contributed to a separate asset of another spouse, or when you suspect your spouse is hiding assets. It is a good idea to consult your family law attorney when you and your spouse cannot determine an amicable division of assets.
Even when the division of assets is amicable, it can quickly become complicated. There are different methods of equitable division. Spouses or partners can divide assets between themselves by assigning specific items to each spouse. The other spouse is then allowed to “;buy out” their spouse’s share of those assets. Alternatively, the assets can be sold and the proceeds divided. Some spouses decide together to keep a property, holding it jointly even after the divorce.
Turn to the Experience of HFLG
The Hittelman Family law group includes skilled, experienced attorneys such as Steven Hittelman, Wayne Jones and Patricia Cyr. We guide our clients through the division of assets process from beginning to end. Experience the HFLG difference. Contact us or call (949) 210-3260 to learn more about how we can help you protect your financial position in a divorce.