Dividing your property can be one of the most challenging parts of a divorce. You and your spouse have spent years paying mortgages and car loans and building up savings and retirement accounts. Now you will have to divide all your assets.

But not everything you have goes through property division. Under California rules, you may be able to keep some of what you own separate from divorce proceedings.

Courts divide marital property equally

As a community property state, California courts will consider your assets to be either marital or separate property. Marital property is anything that you and your spouse earned during the marriage. This can include your wages, cars, house, investment accounts or anything else that you gained while married.

A California court will divide any marital property you have in a 50/50 split. You will only get half of anything earned during your marriage.

Separate property stays yours

However, you can keep any separate property after your divorce. Anything you earn before marriage or after the date of your separation is yours alone. You may have bought a house or contributed to a 401(k) before you married. These assets stay out of property division for your divorce.

You can also keep any gifts or inheritances separate. If a family member passes away and leaves you money or property, you don’t have to divide that.

You may not have to divide everything

After years of marriage, you and your spouse shared your assets. Now, as you go through a divorce, anything owned by both of you will split in half. But if you can show the court that some of your property is separate, you won’t have to share that with your spouse.