Living in California has its benefits, one of which is that it is a community property state. For those going through a divorce, the benefit of being in a community property state is that each of you has a right to 50% of your marital assets.
Community property laws assume that each person has put in equal time, effort and money into a marriage. They assume that both parties are equals and should be treated as such in a court of law. Therefore, when you divide your assets, the judge will presume that you’re going to divide your assets as close to equally as possible.
Do you have to follow community property guidelines?
Not necessarily, so long as you and your spouse can agree on a different arrangement. For example, if you were the only party working during your marriage, you could argue that your spouse did not invest as much money into the marriage and should not get an equal share of your assets.
Remember, you can retain any property that is identified as separate property without having to divide a share in court. So, if you have receipts for items you purchased before your marriage, had real estate or financial assets from before marriage or have business interests that you did not share with your spouse during your marriage and invested in previous to your marriage, you may be able to keep those on your own.
You may, in some cases, have to share the interest that grew on an account during your marriage or a portion of a retirement account added to the account during your marriage. These kinds of topics can get complex, which is why you may want to work with your attorney and an accountant to work out how you can best preserve your assets and retain what is rightfully your personal, separate property.
If you aren’t sure how to divide your assets or debts, it’s worth learning more about how community property laws work and how they may affect you. There are steps you can take to protect your assets, so you can walk away with more.