If you get divorced or legally separated in California, you will have to handle the issue of property division. This is how you and your ex-spouse will divide all of the property and debts acquired throughout the course of your marriage. Property division is often one of the most contested matters in a divorce case in Palo Alto. If you wish to speak to a Palo Alto property division attorney, request a consultation with a lawyer at the Schoenberg Family Law Group today at (415) 275-2987.
Why Choose the Schoenberg Family Law Group?
- We have a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) on staff, Attorney Debra R. Schoenberg. A CFLS is an attorney with years of experience practicing family law and who has completed additional requirements to demonstrate a high level of experience in this specialty area.
- Our Palo Alto property division lawyers have been representing clients during divorce and legal separation cases for over 35 years. We were recently voted the #1 family law firm in California. We diligently pursue each client’s unique case goals with personalized legal services.
- We can take on any challenge and overcome any obstacle when it comes to property division, our attorneys are knowledgeable and experienced. We have successfully handled high-value assets, complex property division, Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs), and more.
How Is Property Divided in a California Divorce?
California is one of only nine community property states in the U.S. The rest of the country abides by an equitable distribution law when it comes to dividing property. In an equitable distribution state, a judge divides marital property in a way that is equitable, meaning fair, for both parties. In a community property state, the courts split marital property down the middle – 50/50 – regardless of what is fair. Marital or community property can include:
- Income and debts
- The family home
- Vacation or secondary homes
- Real estate and property investments
- Business ventures
- Stocks and bonds
- Retirement accounts/401(k)s
- Artwork and collectibles
It is necessary to make a list of all of your property, assets and debts to submit with your divorce paperwork, known as your financial disclosure. A lawyer can help you with this process. Initially, a couple will have the opportunity to create their own property division agreement. They will both need to agree on how to divide all marital assets and debts to come to a settlement agreement. If they cannot compromise with each other, all community property and debt will be shared equally by both spouses.
Community vs. Separate Property
The courts only have the right to divide property that is classified as part of the community in a divorce or legal separation in California. Community property refers to anything gained or acquired during the marriage. Anything that either party had prior to marriage is separate property. Separate property also includes any gifts or inheritance given to only one spouse during the marriage. California’s community property law does not apply to separate property.
How Can You Protect Your Property During Divorce?
Despite California’s community property law, you do not necessarily have to split everything that you’ve earned with your ex. There are a few ways to protect your property and assets during a divorce case. First, you can create your own property agreement that better protects your interests by attending alternative dispute resolution meetings with your spouse, such as mediation or arbitration.
Second, you could protect yourself ahead of time with a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. This is a legally binding contract signed before or soon after marriage that organizes property division in advance. Third, you can keep your separate property separate, rather than joining it together with your spouse and making it community property (commingling). Finally, you can hire an experienced family law attorney in Palo Alto to represent you during property division.