Wooden figures on a scale with money in the middle

Dividing Debt in a California Divorce

Shelly Jean John, Attorney at Law March 18, 2022

Divorcing can affect every aspect of your life, including your assets and finances. During property division in a California divorce, the divorcing couple must also divide their debts. However, determining the nature of debt and how to achieve equitable debt division can pose different complexities. An experienced California family law attorney can help you understand debt division and make informed decisions.

At the Law Office of Shelly Jean John, I have the skills, resources, and diligence to help individuals and families navigate complex divorce matters, including the division of debts. I'm available to discuss your unique situation and explore your different legal options. Also, I will fight diligently to protect your best interests, determine whether you're entitled to reimbursement, and help divide debts justly. My firm is proud to serve clients across Ontario, Riverside, and San Bernardino County, California.

Property in a California Divorce

In a California divorce, the couple's assets will be categorized into community property and separate property. While community property is subject to asset division in the divorce, separate property isn't.

Separate Property

Separate property consists of any asset or property owned entirely by one spouse. Under California law, separate property can be any of the following:

  • An item acquired before your marriage

  • Rents, issues, or profits derived from any property owned before marriage

  • A personal gift from a third party

  • An inheritance or an item purchased with an inheritance

  • An item acquired after the date of separation

As mentioned earlier, separate property is not subject to asset division in California.

Community Property

Community property consists of any property acquired by both or either spouse during the marriage. This includes the marital home, motor vehicles, bank accounts, royalties, income, furniture pieces, rents, stocks, credit card charges, 401(k) accounts, pension plans, and all other assets acquired during the marriage. Under California law, community property is presumed to be owned by each spouse equally.

How Debt Is Divided

Just like assets, debts must also be divided during the divorce proceedings. In the event that there is no prior agreement – for instance, a prenuptial agreement – regarding the division of assets and debts, the California court will divide community property and debts equally between the divorcing spouses.

However, if the community debts are greater than the community assets, an unequal division may be required. The excess debts may be assigned to the spouse who is in a better financial position to repay them. An experienced divorce attorney can enlighten you about debt division in California and how the date of separation may factor into your share of the debt.

Date of Separation

Under California law, any property acquired or debt incurred after the date of separation is considered as separate property or separate debt, respectively. Thus, the California court will assign such debt to the spouse who incurs it after separation. To establish the official date of separation:

  • There must be a physical separation between the spouses.

  • One spouse must have an intent to end the marriage.

A knowledgeable lawyer can evaluate the surrounding circumstances of your unique situation, help determine the date of separation, and decide whether you may be entitled to reimbursement.

Experienced Guidance You Can Trust

Splitting debts in a divorce can be difficult and may involve a lot of complexities. Also, various issues may arise between the date of separation and the final divorce, which can make the division of debts even more complicated. Therefore, if you are considering filing for divorce and want to understand how your debts would be divided, consulting with a knowledgeable family law attorney is important for detailed guidance.

At the Law Office of Shelly Jean John, I'm committed to providing experienced legal guidance and brilliant advocacy to clients in family law matters, including asset and debt division. As your attorney, I will:

  • Work to understand your specific situation and explore your available options

  • Determine whether you have separate debts or joint debts

  • Determine whether you're entitled to reimbursement

  • Determine the date of separation

  • Help determine who's responsible for the mortgage

  • Decide the best way to achieve equal distribution

Also, I will work diligently with qualified experts, including financial analysts and all other parties involved, to divide debts fairly, settle other divorce or asset division issues amicably, and help you move forward quickly.

Contact the Law Office of Shelly Jean John today to schedule a simple consultation with a trusted property division attorney. I can offer you the highly-personalized legal counsel, support, and reliable advocacy you need to navigate crucial decisions in your divorce. My firm is proud to serve clients across Ontario, Riverside, and San Bernardino County, California.