Law Office of Stephen W. Penn and Associates

Property division: 50/50 isn't always black and white

If you are considering divorce, then one of your primary concerns as you navigate the next chapter of your life is going to be your financial well-being. Because of this, you should understand how property division works in this state.

In California, we comply with community property laws, which means that each spouse is entitled to half of the assets (and debts) accumulated during the marriage. However, there are a few reasons why this can be more complicated than you might expect.

Reason 1: Not all property is community property. 

There are two types of property in a divorce: community and separate. Community property belongs to both spouses; separate property is generally property that belonged to one person before marriage and it is shielded from division. However, separate property can become community property, and you might also have quasi-community property if you acquired it in another state. 

Reason 2: Valuations can be tricky.

Valuing property can be a very complicated process when it comes to businesses, intellectual property, heirlooms and other complex assets without a specific value. You might arrive at one price while your ex arrives at another. In these situations, you may need to work with a third party who can assess and assign value to this property.

Reason 3: Not all assets can be divided in half.

If you have investments, pension plan or real estate you do not want to sell, it may not be wise or feasible to simply split the asset in half. If you have property like this, you will need to figure out a way to balance the scales so that each person exits the divorce with roughly the same value of property and debts.

The importance of legal guidance

These and other elements of dividing assets and debts can make it a much more complicated -- and overwhelming -- process than you might anticipate. As such, a family law attorney who is familiar with property division and the many challenges that arise can be a critical resource during this step in a divorce.

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  • SCBA | Santa Clara County Bar Association | EST 1917
  • State Bar Of California | California Board Of Legal Specialization | Stephen W. Penn
  • Henry P. Collada Memorial Award 2012