What’s Mine Is “Ours”?

When a married couple decides to separate, the court takes painstaking detail to dissolving all aspects of the union.  Aside from various considerations involving children in common, another important consideration lies in the division of property.  If you are considering divorce, you should speak to a local family law attorney about your options.

During divorce proceedings, the concept of equitable distribution is the portion of the litigation during which the “assets and earnings acquired during marriage are divided equitably…at divorce.”  If the divorcing parties are unable to agree about a division of property, they will ask the court for an adjudication of the division of property.

Regarding the distribution of property, California is a community property state.  This means that both spouses are considered to have an equal ownership stake in all money either of them earns during the marriage, regardless of whether both spouses are employed or not.  Further, any property purchased with “community” funds is considered to be owned equally by both spouses<, even if it the property or account is only in one spouse’s name

Separate Property in California

While property acquired during marriage is subject to the community property rule, property acquired by the parties individually before marriage is treated differently by the courts.  Property that separate parties acquired before marriage is considered “separate property” in contrast to community property.  Separate property also includes items purchased with or exchanged for separate property as well.  Separate property is considered solely that of the spouse who owns it.

While the categorizations of separate property and community property are easily understood, complications arise when spouses commingle the two.  For the sake of simplicity and clarity, it is advisable that married couples not mix community property and separate property, however it happens often.  For example, if a spouse had a premarital bank account and the other spouse starts to make deposits, it is now marital property.

Because separate property can become marital property so easily, there are some basic steps you can take to ensure that separate property stays separate.

  1. Do not use separate property to pay for marital debts.
  2. Only use separate property to pay for or exchange in return for other separate property.
  3. Keep proper records of any increase in value of separate property and how the accumulation occurred (i.e. whether it was active or passive accumulation).
  4. Do not allow your spouse to add any efforts to separate property.  This includes improvements on separate property and deposits to separate bank accounts.
  5. Keep accurate records of everything that has happened to your separate property.  In the event that there is a dispute, you want clear and well kept records to bolster your position.

Contact a Skilled Attorney for Help

So many aspects of divorce are complex and emotionally draining.  In such a time, you need an advocate who can anticipate your needs during a divorce and meet them as they arise; Charles Stark is that advocate.  If you live in California, attorney Charles D. Stark can meet your divorce needs and help you solve any complex equitable distribution problems.  Call 707.527.9900 or contact us online today.

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