From financial assets to custody of any children involved, people often think that California divorces always end with an even 50 percent split of everything to both spouses when they separate. However, having a quick and easy 50/50 split of assets and liabilities is frequently not the case, as it can become very difficult for lawyers to divide things exactly in half. For the most part, this is because it can quickly become difficult for divorced spouses to assign a value to the variety of things that need to be split among both parties, such as properties and child custody.
Additionally, most married couples accumulate a large number of assets and liabilities that they share jointly. That means it can become extremely difficult to navigate the foggy mire of who gets what when the time comes for divorce and the fair splitting of property. This is especially true with the increase of working women who also contribute to joint assets.
When a couple gets divorced, both parties typically have their own divorce lawyers who are hired to represent and negotiate the terms of a divorce split, which may include time spent caring for children, alimony, and child support payments if applicable. Divorce division agreements can be unique to the couple as well. That’s why a qualified divorce attorney from the Law Office of Stephanie J. Squires can help.
Community Property States
California is one of the eight states that functions under the community property standard when it comes to the splitting of assets for a divorce. Unlike other states that award assets and property to the party that paid for it, California considers any assets obtained while married as shared because they both contributed as a married couple. That means any assets or debts attained while a couple was married must be split fairly as part of the divorce.
That being said, owned physical assets like vehicles, land, and houses do not typically need to be liquidated to achieve the 50/50 split. Often, the monetary value of these assets is used in place of the actual item when dividing everything into equal halves for either spouse.
Vehicles or homes that both spouses want access to can often be negotiated for half ownership. For example, both parties could have access to a summer home that they purchase during their marriage while it is their half of the year or during their time that was negotiated. If there are issues with agreeing, a mediator may help negotiate the terms of the divorce. Mediators are legal professionals who are trained in how to make sure both parties in a divorce are getting a fair deal in the division of property and help discuss the acceptance of divorce terms or redrawing of an agreement.
Marital Property vs. Separate Property
Only marital property is divided as part of a divorce. This includes any stocks, income, credit cards, or loans that were accumulated during the marriage. Any assets obtained before or after marriage still belong to the party that obtained them. This also includes gifts and inheritances that were meant specifically for one spouse and not both, as well as debts like student loans that are specifically under one party’s name. These are considered separate property.
Sometimes the line between what constitutes marital property and separate property can become blurred. Social Security is an example of this, and it usually must be negotiated specifically for the divorced parties.
Another example may be a home that was purchased while one party was single, but both spouses lived in it for an extended time after marriage. These properties that can be categorized as either marital or separate property depending on the case are called commingled property. For these cases, it’s best to rely on an attorney who has a better understanding of the separation of specific properties and assets. They can help determine whether the property item belongs to one party by law or if it needs to be considered shared property.
Obtaining the 50/50 Split
Community property states like California usually do their best to divide property and assets into an exact 50 percent for each divorced party, but it is often the case that it does not break down into clean halves. If both parties agree on a specific plan for splitting their marital property that leaves one party with less than the other or if there is a prenup or postnuptial agreement that states a certain asset goes to one spouse upon divorce, then there may be an imbalanced split.
The California community property standard may not seem fair to some, but it is meant to be able to also provide for stay-at-home spouses who did not earn income but helped maintain the home or take care of children instead. Although a stay-at-home spouse did not technically bring in income, they still spent their time caring for other things that are important for a marriage. Therefore, opportunity costs must be considered during a negotiation. Otherwise, one person may be left with virtually nothing because their focus and duties as a spouse were elsewhere in the marital balance.
The Law Office of Stephanie J. Squires Can Help
Divorce can be a difficult and confusing affair, even when just considering the split of all of the income and property a couple has accumulated over the course of their marriage. Every case of dividing marital property is different, and divorce lawyers are the best option for making sure you can get what you believe you deserve after a separation.
If you are facing a divorce in California, the attorneys at the Law Office of Stephanie J. Squires are ready to help. We tailor our approach to each client, so you can trust that we will do what works best for your and your case.
Our divorce attorneys can also offer mediation services to help you and your spouse reach an agreement out of court for splitting your marital property. Get in touch with us to find out more about how we can help ensure assets are split as evenly as possible between you and your spouse during a divorce.