Separate property. According to California law, separate property includes real and personal property owned by a spouse before marriage or received through gift or inheritance during the marriage. Separate property also includes property acquired before the divorce but after the date of separation.
Separate property can become community property if marital assets are used to maintain it. For example, one spouse might inherit a home that would be separate property and not subject to asset division; however, if commingled marital funds are used to renovate the home, it can create a "community property interest" in the home. This means a spouse might receive some money from the value of the house. Likewise, the bank account a spouse had prior to marriage can become community property if marital monies have been deposited during the marriage. This is why it is important to keep your separate property separate by not mixing it in bank accounts that have your wages or other community property funds in them.
Determining How Assets are Divided
Who determines what is community property or separate property, the value of community property, and how community property is divided in a California divorce depends on whether the divorce is uncontested or contested.
If you and your spouse can agree on the division of your community property, debt, and all other ramifications of your divorce, including child custody and spousal support, you can both sign a Marital Settlement Agreement to be approved by the court.
If you and your spouse are unable to agree, your divorce is contested which means the court judge will determine how your assets and liabilities will be split at a value as near as practicable to the time of trial.
How Experienced Legal Counsel Can Help
In a contested divorce, your attorney will help present your case to the judge who will make the final determination as to how assets will be divided. Even in an uncontested divorce, a family law attorney can help you determine marital assets and assess their value and your contribution to them.
At the Law Office of Shelly Jean John, I have the experience and resources necessary to help you achieve a fair and equitable property agreement. I will answer your questions, explain your options, and help you find a solution.