Despite the availability of state laws online, myths about California divorce still dominate the cultural narrative. Most people have heard some about how divorce hurts one person unfairly. People may share stories about one individual who lost their home or had to pay large amounts of support for their ex despite the spouse receiving support openly cheating.
These urban legends about California divorce are a lot like a game of “Telephone.” There may have been a true story at one point, but every person who has heard and repeated the story has changed it a little, resulting in a tall tale that does not reflect reality.
Despite many people claiming that divorce can cost a hard-working adult their home, the law in California makes it clear that this is not the case.
California will treat your assets like community property
It is possible for someone who has been the primary wage-earner for their family to feel frustrated by the outcome of the property division process. Community property rules give each spouse a strong interest in the marital property of a couple, even if one spouse didn’t work at all.
Spouses who give up their careers to support the family from home have reduced earning potential in the future, which is one reason why the courts will expect their ex to share with them. Another is that their unpaid home contributions saved the household money and likely allowed the bread-winning spouse to focus more completely on their career.
Typically, the courts will divide the value of the home. Even if one spouse retains occupancy, they will probably need to refinance the house first so that their ex receives an appropriate amount of household equity. Sometimes, the courts will use the value of the home to justify distributing other assets to the other spouse. While one spouse will keep the actual home, both should receive their fair share of the house’s value.
Are there exceptions to this rule?
With any legal standard, there are absolutely exceptions to the community property approach to your marital home. For example, if spouses signed a marital agreement that designates the home as separate property, then the courts may not split the home or consider its value in the divorce.
If one spouse can show through financial records that the home is their separate property because they owned it prior to marriage or inherited it, they may be able to keep it without sharing with their ex. In most other cases, each spouse will have at least a partial interest in the home.
Learning more about the realities of property division in a California divorce can make you feel more confident about filing.