Divorce and Division of Assets

When you are going through a divorce or dealing with serious family law issues, it can be difficult to focus on your future.

Divorce is almost never an easy process, and the decisions you make during this time can affect you and your family for many years to come. If you believe you cannot make these difficult decisions on your own, you should contact an experienced family law attorney to help you.

When a couple is divorcing or separating, they generally have a variety of assets that will need to be divided between them.

Property division, like pretty much everything in family law, is governed by laws set forth in the domestic relations codes of California law. The state of California considers any property acquired during the marriage by a husband or wife to be community property, according to the California Family Code Sections 760 and 771.

Unless a couple signs a prenuptial agreement, California community property law only applies if the couple divorces in the state.

  • Division of property includes:
  • Financial assets – checking and savings accounts, investment accounts, stocks and bonds, mutual funds, and cash
  • Home – or any property, such as vacation home, land, building, timeshare
  • Debts – any outstanding credit card charges, loans, etc.
  • Retirement accounts – including 401(k) accounts and pensions
  • Business – if you own a business, along with any property owned by that business, including accounts receivable
  • Taxes – tax refunds or carryover tax losses
  • Vehicles – including automobiles, RVs, boats, etc.
  • Collections – antiques, artwork
  • Household goods and furnishings – this includes anything else inside of your home
  •  Insurance policies – life insurance policies may be considered an asset

Separate property is property owned before the couple got married, any property inherited or received as a gift during the marriage by either party, proceeds from the rent or sale of separate property, items and money earned while legally or physically separated from the spouse and any items conveyed from one spouse to the other with the intention of designating it as separate property.

Sometimes a spouse may hide some assets. Generally, you and your attorney can conduct a legal process called discovery to help you find out what assets there are and where those assets are located. Discovery may involve sending written questions or interrogatories to your spouse, requesting that a third party, such as your bank, produce documents to you.
Both parties have equal rights to the control and management of community property. However, it is against the law for one spouse to withhold home furnishings and fittings or clothing items of the other spouse or any minor children of the couple.

For some assets, it will be fairly easy to determine the value (i.e. a checking or savings account with a specific amount held in it). For other assets, you may need to have an appraisal performed to determine the value.

If your divorce involves high assets or a high net worth, the division of assets will be much more complex.
If you are going through a divorce, it is important to seek the help of a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney to ensure you are awarded a fair share of the community property and to protect your separate property.