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What does it mean to be in a community property state?

On Behalf of | Jun 1, 2021 | Divorce

California is a state that practices community property law. What that means is that all marital assets are assumed to belong equally to both parties upon divorce. Both parties have the right to 50% of the assets shared in the marriage automatically, unless they have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

Community property is not particularly complex, because it automatically assumes that all income, assets and investments belong to both parties if they were accrued during the marriage. Investments from before your marriage, as well as items owned previously, are still separate property.

Can you choose to divide your property differently than how California law allows?

Yes, you can choose to divide your property differently than how the law suggested, but if your case ends up in court, you should expect a judge to rule for 50% divisions.

To avoid that, you have some other options. For example, if you know that your spouse invested less into the marriage, you may ask if they’d be willing to negotiate a settlement and take less than 50% of the assets. They may not agree, but in some cases, people will. For instance, if they are eager to keep the family yacht that is in your name, you might agree to give that up in exchange for a higher percentage of other assets.

If you and your spouse do decide that you want to divide your property equitably instead of equally, you may be able to work out that agreement with the help of your attorneys. If you come up with a settlement, then your attorneys can help you make an agreement that is legally binding and submit it to the court.

Can you settle partially outside of court?

Yes. If you have trouble settling all aspects of your property division issues, you can settle as much as possible outside court and take the last few issues before a judge. It’s a good idea to do this if you can, so that you maintain as much control over where your assets go as possible. It’s more time efficient and cost effective to use this method whenever possible.