It is critically important to be as proactive as you can when preparing to divide your marital estate in the wake of a decision to divorce. If you live in California – or you no longer live in California but your spouse does, so you’re filing for divorce there – you’re going to be subjected to community property standards. These standards are far more exacting than the marital property standards employed by other states. By being as proactive as you can, you’ll place yourself in the best possible position to achieve a divorce settlement that is as fair as it can be.
California Community Property Standards
As an experienced Alameda County, CA divorce lawyer – including those who practice at Kempen & Company – can explain in great detail, California is one of the few states in the nation classified as a community property state. Most states in the U.S. are now classified as equitable distribution states. Under this model, marital assets may be divided in a split that isn’t “50-50” (as long as the ultimate distribution is deemed fair) and individuals may treat their personal property as subject to their ownership alone unless a couple has decided to share that property.
By contrast, community property states require couples to treat virtually all property acquired during the marriage as jointly owned and there must be a 50-50 split of the value of this property upon marital dissolution.
Therefore, because you’re filing for divorce in California, you’re going to have to both determine the value of your marital estate (all of the property that will be treated as jointly owned and subject to the 50-50 value split rule) and figure out how to divide that value in absolutely equal shares.
If you haven’t been married long and the assets you acquired during your marriage are primarily household goods, determining the rough value of this property may not take too much effort. However, if you have been married a long time, have complex financial assets, and/or own property that is likely to significantly appreciate or depreciate over time, the job of valuing your property is going to be much tougher. As a result, you’re going to want to speak with an attorney as soon as you can about securing a proper valuation of your total marital estate. Without this valuation (and the valuation of significant assets individually) the job of splitting those assets up evenly will be virtually impossible.
Splitting Assets Equally
Once your marital estate has been valued overall, you’ll cut that number in half to arrive at the value of assets that you and your spouse must each be awarded upon the conclusion of your divorce. You’ll then be able to take each major asset’s value into account when deciding to make an asset part of your award, your spouse’s award, or something you both want to sell in order to split the profits. You may also be in a position to have one spouse take more value in assets and to pay the other spousal support to make up that difference.