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Divorcing in California? You'll want to read this

You may have several reasons for choosing California over the 49 other states in the nation as your primary residence location. Perhaps you're one of many who love the climate here, or you and your loved ones are surfing enthusiasts who enjoy the ocean waves along the West Coast. You might also be a rising entrepreneur and want to live where there's a lot of business action and chances for success are promising.

In any event, this state has certain laws that may greatly impact your life, especially if you happen to be getting divorced. California happens to be one of only nine states in the entire nation that continues to govern the property division aspect of the process under community property laws.

What that means and how it might affect your situation

There is one major difference between community property law and equitable division, which is what the 41 states that do not follow community property law use to determine who gets what in divorce. The following list includes facts that further explain the issue and what impact it might have on your post-divorce lifestyle:

  • When you divorce in a community property state, everything you and your spouse jointly own in marriage is typically split 50/50.
  • To the contrary, a judge following equitable division guidelines may not necessarily divide marital property equally in divorce but will rule on what the court determines a fair division.
  • If you do not have a signed prenuptial agreement, it may be very difficult to try to keep an asset separate from division. However, if you can prove that you owned the asset in question before you got married (such as a gift or inheritance) you may be able to retain complete ownership of that asset in divorce.
  • Generally speaking, any income, property, or assets you or your spouse acquire during marriage is automatically considered jointly and equally owned for the purpose of dividing assets in divorce.
  • If you received compensation for damages in a legal action after suffering a personal injury, such proceeds may also be considered separate property.

In addition to all assets, community property states also consider both spouses equally responsible for all marital debt. If you are navigating a particularly high net worth divorce, you'll want to make sure you clearly understand community property laws and know how to protect your rights and best interests.

Where others have turned for support

Many people find it less stressful to address asset issues in divorce by relying on experienced family law attorneys who are highly skilled negotiators to help them get all they are entitled to and nip in the bud any problems that arise.

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