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How can my ex-spouse and I divide our assets when we divorce?

You and your soon-to-be ex-spouse have decided to end your marriage. Now, the difficult part begins as you ask yourselves, "Who gets what?" Property division can be one of the most complicated parts of a divorce and requires patience and a thorough understanding of the process.

California is a "community property" state, meaning that any property acquired during the marriage that is not a gift or inheritance will be divided equally between you and your spouse when you divorce. To determine whether something is considered community property, consider the money used to buy it. If the money was earned during the marriage, it belongs to you and your spouse. The debt you have accumulated as a couple will also be divided, even if only one of you incurred the debt. You and your spouse will each be responsible for one-half of the debt upon divorce.

In cases where you or your spouse were living outside of California during your marriage, anything that you acquired that would have been considered community property in California is called "quasi-community property." Quasi-community property will be treated like community property during your divorce.

Separate property, on the other hand, is any property you or your spouse owned before your marriage or anything you acquire after the date of your separation. You will not have to share these items with your spouse when you divorce. Separate property includes individual inheritances and gifts, as well as any profit you earn from your separate property. Any purchases you make with your separate property is also considered separate property. For example, if you buy a car with your own inheritance, the car is considered separate property and belongs to you alone.

This may seem straightforward, but dividing property is not always easy, particularly when "commingling" occurs. This occurs when a piece of property such as a house, pension or retirement benefit, is partially community property and partially separate property.

Source: California Courts, "Property and Debt in a Divorce or Legal Separation," accessed on July 17, 2017

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