Community, Separate or Commingled? California Property Division

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Divorcing spouses in California must go through many important financial considerations. Divorce proceedings often include financial decisions involving child support payments. A spouse also might be ordered to pay the other spousal support, also known as alimony. In many cases, spouses claim interests in a business. Finally, there is the task of allocating who gets what out of the divorcing couple's property.

Community Property

California stands among a minority of states that follow "community property" rules. Most property and debt acquired by either spouse during the marriage is the community property of both spouses, and it will be divided evenly between them unless they come to a different agreement. There are certain exceptions, as well as a category of separate property. As its name suggests, separate assets are distinct from community property; each spouse keeps his or her own separate property after a divorce.

Commingled property is mixed community and separate property. Commonly, spouses' homes, pensions and retirement accounts become commingled over the years, and it can be difficult to identify who owns what and accordingly, how each asset will be divided during the divorce.

California Property Division

The California division of property process affects the following types of property:

  • Homes
  • Cars
  • Furniture
  • Bank accounts and cash
  • Investments and business interests
  • Life insurance policies with cash value
  • Pensions and retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k) accounts
  • Stock options and deferred compensation

According to Fox Business, some assets like stock options and business interests do not necessarily have a present value because they will not get paid out until sometime in the future. Therefore, it can be difficult to calculate the exact value of each asset and then divvy it all up under California property division rules. When the spouses have a significant amount of debt between them, it can make the property division even messier, since debt classified as community property must also be divided equally.

When going through divorce, spouses should look carefully at the classification and value of their property and debt with the help of a knowledgeable divorce attorney.