California is what’s known as a “community property” state, so married couples share and share alike when it comes to any assets and debts they may have.
It also means that when a couple divorces, those assets and debts are governed by the same principles – and subject to a 50/50 split.
Why, then, is there ever a need to litigate over what assets and debts each party will take with them after a divorce is done?
There are numerous reasons property division can be complicated
A lot of times, couples are able to come to some fairly rapid and easy conclusions about how to divide their assets fairly – and community property states encourage it. However, there are plenty of gray areas that have to be considered, such as when:
- You aren’t sure if something is partially or wholly one party’s separate property. For example, an inheritance is generally one’s own separate property – but what you do with that inheritance after you get it could make some of it your spouse’s. This is particularly true if you used it to buy real estate, make investments or commingled the funds with your spouse’s.
- You may disagree about when your marriage actually began. If you’re in a same-sex marriage, for example, you may have held a commitment ceremony 10 years before you were legally wed, and that can make it difficult to really say what’s community property and what’s not.
- You can’t agree on the value of certain assets. You know you can’t cut all the furniture in half to divide things exactly evenly, but you can trade one asset against another. That’s easy to do when you’re talking about couches and lamps – but not so easy to do when you have real property in different states, investments, retirement funds, a growing business and other hard-to-value assets.
If you have a complex divorce coming up, it’s wisest to understand as much as you can about the challenges you may face. Experienced legal guidance can help you get what you are due.