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What Am I Entitled to in a California Divorce?
California’s community property laws can be confusing, leaving many to wonder “what am I entitled to in a California divorce?” You are entitled to a fair share of community property, but dividing assets is not as simple as it sounds, making it wise to work with a capable family lawyer.
To have specific questions answered, call and schedule a free consultation with the Law Office of Laurence J. Brock. In the meantime, here are some general rules that you should be aware of:
Anything acquired during the marriage by one or both partners is considered community property. This applies to both tangible assets and income earned.
Property and income acquired when not living together might be considered separate, but it is best to file for a legal separation to protect yourself rather than just moving out.
Separate property is generally anything acquired prior to the marriage or as a gift during it.
California does not require physical property such as a house to be divided evenly in a divorce. Instead, each spouse must receive an equal share of all combined assets. For example, one spouse might receive the home while another receives an equivalent value in cash, bonds, vehicles, and so on.
The only time it becomes truly difficult to divide property is when it was purchased by one spouse prior to the marriage but used or occupied by both parties during it.
Assets and Retirement Funds
Cash and liquid assets will be added to the asset column with one exception: Gifted funds may remain the individual property of the spouse who received them.
Contributions made to retirement funds prior to the marriage are considered separate property.
Money contributed to retirement accounts during the marriage is typically considered community property and will need to be divided among both parties. This does not mean that funds must be withdrawn from the account to make the payment. Instead, the value is placed in the asset column and divided along with everything else.
Pension checks can also be divided by the court. If the working spouse has not yet retired, the court can make a judgment requiring that a certain portion of monthly pension checks go to the ex-spouse once they begin. This amount will be based on the number of years married compared with the number of years working for the employer. For example, if the working spouse was employed for forty years and married for thirty, 75 percent of the pension would then be divided by two.
A judge may award spousal support. This is based on enabling both spouses to maintain a similar lifestyle to what was enjoyed while married. Alimony is particularly likely to be awarded when one spouse was non-working or earned less than the other, especially if this spouse was the primary childcare provider.
If a business was established during the marriage, both parties should have an equal right to either the income derived from it or equity in the business. However, if one spouse is working in the business full-time and receiving fair wages, there may not be much to divide.