The Law Offices of Dorie A. Rogers has years of experience handling the most complex divorce cases in the Irvine, CA, area on behalf of our clients, and we are ready to apply this vast experience to your property division case. It’s natural to have some misconceptions and unrealistic expectations about how property division will unfold in your divorce case. Our goal is to help you understand your legal options and what to expect as your case unfolds so you can approach the situation with understanding and confidence.
Property division is just one aspect of the divorce process in California. While you may believe you can handle your divorce case without an attorney, this is never a good idea. Even if you and your spouse are on relatively agreeable terms and believe you can reach a mutually agreeable property division determination unassisted by an attorney, you face several challenges if you attempt to handle property division proceedings without reliable legal counsel.
First, you would need to handle all of your case’s procedural requirements completely unassisted by an attorney. This means that you would not only be responsible for court filings and all the preliminary steps your divorce will entail, but you would also have to accomplish these tasks while managing your everyday responsibilities to your career and your family. Hiring an experienced Irvine property division attorney will provide you with much-needed flexibility and reassurance during a challenging time in your life, allowing you to enjoy peace of mind knowing your case is in trustworthy hands.
Another reason to hire an experienced Irvine property division attorney to represent you is that you could unintentionally make serious errors with your financial disclosure, potentially leading to significantly longer legal proceedings or an improperly configured divorce settlement. In addition, your attorney will know how to complete your property division disclosure accurately and guide you through each phase of the divorce process, likely securing a much more favorable outcome than you could have managed alone.
It’s essential to understand California’s community property law before your divorce begins. Under this law, all property and assets gained during the marriage become community property. This includes income earned by both spouses, contributions to shared investment accounts, real property purchased by either spouse using community funds, and many other types of property a couple might acquire during the marriage. Similarly, community property also applies to debts. Unless the couple has a premarital contract with clear terms regarding debts acquired during the marriage, any debt incurred by either spouse during their marriage likely qualifies as community property, and both spouses will share responsibility for the debt.
California’s community property law requires an exact 50/50 division of all marital property and debts in any divorce, regardless of the reason for the divorce. Many people mistakenly assume that if they file for divorce with cause, such as their spouse’s infidelity, they will gain a more significant share of community property in a divorce. This is not the case, and while prenuptial contracts can and do influence divorce outcomes, they may only do so under the provisions of California’s community property law.
Property division is a complicated process, and the family court system expects both spouses to provide complete and accurate financial records at the outset of this process. Generally, the court will complete five steps to reach a property division determination in any divorce case:
- Identify all property owned by the divorcing spouses. Both spouses must complete a financial disclosure statement that includes all necessary records of their separate and community property. It’s essential to be accurate in financial disclosure. Any errors or omissions can significantly extend the time required to complete a divorce.
- Classify all assets and property as marital property or separate property. California law allows divorcing spouses to retain ownership of separate property, typically including any assets and property a spouse owned before their marriage. This can include gifts and inheritance, but some separate property can “transmute” to community property under certain conditions. For example, if you owned a home before marriage but your spouse contributed to renovations that significantly increased its value, the home would likely qualify as community property due to transmutation.
- Calculate the spouse’s shared debts. The court will also evaluate all debts held by the divorcing spouses as a couple and individually. These are divided similarly to marital property and separate property. Separate debts remain the responsibilities of the spouses who held them before marrying, and community debts may be resolved by liquidating marital property, or the divorcing spouses may agree to a payment plan going forward.
- Appraise the value of all property. Finally, the court must formally review the total value of every piece of property and every asset listed in the spouses’ financial disclosure statements. This includes potential tax implications and early withdrawal fees attached to specific assets.
- Divide community property and debts equally. Once the court has thoroughly reviewed all the necessary information, they will deliver a property division determination. They may distribute assets equally, but the couple will likely need to liquidate certain assets and split the proceeds.