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Do you know how California courts divide assets in a divorce?

If you find yourself thinking about divorce, you likely have many questions about the process. The truth is that divorce differs in every state and from family to family. You should not rely on information you've gleaned from movies, television or fictional books to develop your expectations of California divorces. Similarly, don't listen to stories from friends and assume your case will end up the same way theirs did.

Accurately predicting a divorce's outcome is difficult. The courts have to weigh many unique factors when deciding how to allocate child custody and the assets and debts you accumulated during your marriage. Unless you resolve all of your issues in mediation for an uncontested divorce or have a strong prenuptial agreement on record, you likely want to inform yourself about how California family courts approach the topic.

California is a community property state for divorcing families

California is one of a handful of states that continues to use the community property standard for dividing property in a divorce. If the courts must decide how to divide your assets, they will start with the assumption that assets acquired during marriage, including income from work, are marital or community property. In other words, regardless of who earned more, both spouses have an interest in the belongings and financial accounts earned or acquired during marriage.

Some property remains separate property in a divorce. Items you received as a gift, money, or possessions received as part of an inheritance and assets you held prior to marriage usually remain your separate property when the time comes to divide your assets. However, if you commingled those assets by sharing them with your spouse or depositing them into a joint account, they could still be subject to division.

The courts will consider many factors when splitting your assets

The goal of the asset division process is a fair outcome for all parties involved. In order for the courts to fairly split your assets, they must review an inventory of what you own and what you owe that includes the value of each asset and debt. They will then consider many factors, including the contributions of each spouse (including unpaid work in the home), the economic status and income of each spouse and child custody, child support and spousal support agreements or orders.

Asset and debt division looks different in every marriage. Sometimes, the courts will order the division of accounts or the sale of the home, with the spouses to split proceeds. Other times, specific assets go to one spouse, with the other receiving items of similar value. While it is possible for one person to seek certain assets with emotional value in a divorce, there is never any certainty about how the courts will handle any given individual asset.

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