Throughout your marriage, you and your spouse likely shared certain things. For instance, it's not uncommon for spouses to share a bank account. Sharing things is a typical part of marriage, but things can get messy if you later decide to divorce. When you sever your marital ties, you have to resolve many issues concerning finances, child custody (if you're parents) and property division.
California processes the latter in a unique way. This happens to be one of only nine states where community property rules apply. This means that marital assets (and debts) are supposed to be split 50/50 when your divorce is finalized. Navigating the process is easier if you learn as much as you can about state laws before heading to court.
You can claim separate ownership of pre-marriage assets
If you had some money in savings before you got married and never co-mingled funds into the account during your marriage, then a California judge is likely to regard the pre-marriage money as your separate asset in the divorce -- that is, if you can prove that the money is separate. If you owned a business before your wedding day, it may be held as a separately owned asset in certain circumstances if you later file for divorce.
For example, the value of the business on the marriage date may be regarded as separate property, but the appreciation in value during the course of the marriage may be divisible.
Using a prenup to protect your financial future
You might have heard some people say that signing a prenuptial agreement isn't romantic. If you sever marital ties after 10, 20 or more years, you might be quite glad you had the forethought to get some things in writing beforehand. In a prenuptial agreement, you can agree to not have community property or to assign separate ownership of an asset to only one spouse.
Once you establish a date of separation
If you move out of the house you shared with your spouse in marriage (or if he or she does the same) and establish a legal date of separation, then any property or assets you acquire beyond that date will automatically be yours. While the court may not have yet finalized your divorce, any earnings you acquire after that date belong to your separately owned asset pile.
Seeking answers to questions
Property division proceedings can be complex and confusing for the average person who has no legal background regarding divorce. You may have friends or family members here in California who have settled divorces in the recent past. They can perhaps give you some advice on how best to prepare for the process yourself. However, when legal issues arise, it's best to seek guidance from someone well-versed in state divorce laws.