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California is a community property state. This means that the assets and debts of married couples are presumed to belong both spouses equally. If a Judge is required to divide property that belongs to both spouses (or domestic partners) it must be divided 50/50. Spouses who can reach a settlement agreement are allowed to divide their property anyway to which they can agree. Controlling the division of your marital property is just one of the many benefits of divorce mediation.  While marital property division appears relatively simple, there are actually a number of issues that must be determined before you divide your property.

Is the property community property or is it separate property?

Property includes virtually any asset that can be bought and sold. This includes homes, cars, furniture, and jewelry. It also includes bank accounts, retirement accounts, stock options, restricted stock units, life insurance policies, interests in a business, intellectual property, vacation pay, and other valuables.

Property acquired during the marriage is known as community or marital property and is divided pursuant to the California community property laws. Earnings on community property are community property, even if these earnings are earned after your date of separation.

Property that is acquired prior to the marriage or after the date of separation is known as separate property. Separate property also includes assets that were acquired by gift or through an inheritance during the marriage. Separate property belongs to each spouse and not to the couple. Earnings on separate property also remain the earning spouse’s separate property unless the non-owning spouse can show that the community contributed labor or money to the owning spouse’s separate property. In that case, there are a number of ways the communities share is determined.

Divorcing parties often argue that their property is separate so they don’t have to split it with their spouse or partner. The separation date is the date one of the parties decides the marriage is over and takes some affirmative steps to show that the marriage is over. The separation date is crucial in asset division as it marks the point in time when the parties stop contributing to the marital assets.

What is the value of each type of property?

Some assets, such as the money in a bank account or certificate of deposit can be easy to value. Other assets such as real property or retirement assets can be hard to value. The ways to value the property can differ depending on the type of asset. If needed, appraisers, accountants, actuaries, and other financial professionals are hired to place a precise value on the assets. In divorce mediation, we use one professional to provide information for both spouses, thereby saving on the costs of your divorce.

Must we sell assets that cannot easily be divided?

Thankfully, no. You can agree to divide your marital assets, including homes, cars and other property that is not easily divisible in a variety of ways. Selling assets is one of these ways, but by no means is it required. You and your spouse can assign values to the property that you wish to keep and not sell and then select items one at a time until each of you has an equivalent share of the nondivisible items. Or one spouse can buy the other spouse’s share of a nondivisible asset. Finally, you can each take turns selecting a nondivisible item without concern for the value.

Dividing your assets can become emotionally overwhelming and lead to a lot of unnecessarily fighting between you and your ex. It is helpful to have a mediator assist you to approach this emotional division. The mediator will set ground rules that will assist you to remain peaceful and respectful.  I am here to provide you with experienced and compassionate guidance through this trying process. All you have to do is give me a call.


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