If you live in California and are contemplating a divorce or currently involved in one, chances are that you have heard that California is a ‘community property state.’ But what exactly does this mean for you when you are going through a divorce and how does it affect how you and your spouse’s property is divided up during the divorce proceedings? How does it differentiate from other states?
In order to better understand what being a community property state means, it may be best to understand what it is not. The majority of states in America are not community property states, but are equitable property states. In these states, the division of marital property in a divorce is distributed in a fair and equitable manner. When the courts use the term ‘equitable’ it does not mean equal. In equitable property states, there is no set rule as to who gets what or how much. Who gets what and how much is entirely dependent on the facts of each marriage.
The minority of states in America are community property states. However, the eight states that are community property states include a quarter of the population of the United States. Therefore the difference in laws still affects a substantial portion of the population.
Equitable property states differ from community property states, where the spouses are deemed by law to equally own all income and assets earned or acquired during the marriage. This includes any property, personal or real, that was purchased with marital money, regardless of who had earned that money or who made the purchase.
Equitable property states aim to make the division of property during a divorce fair in regards to the unique situation of each marriage. Community property states value a fifty-fifty split of all marital property between the spouses because, by that law, that is what is deemed fair. This means that if you live in a community property state and seek to get a divorce, when it comes time to divide up the marital property, unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties, the court will seek to give each spouse half of the marital property. Marital property can include retirement accounts, debt acquired during the marriage and even property that may have been individually owned prior to the marriage but became marital property through its use. It should also be noted that debt like any other marital property is also split equally like any other of the marital property in a community property state.
The difference between states in property division rules also involves differences in rules and factors in determining spousal support.
Negotiating the division of property during your divorce can be a very challenging prospect, especially when the divorce is not amicable and emotions run hot. Even though marital property is supposed to be split 50/50 in community property states, this only applies to marital property. Many parties will seek to keep out marital property by arguing that it is individual property in order to avoid having to divide up their fair share. Do not let this happen to you. Contact the Law Office of Charles D. Stark in Sonoma County for divorce assistance. Put his years of experience to work for you. Contact him online or call today at 405-232-7980.