Property Division in California: Can You Split Assets 50/50?

The property division in California can be difficult for couples in a divorce. You may wonder whether the property you and your spouse have accumulated during the marriage will be evenly divided or if there’s another route you can take.

Property division laws can be confusing. For one, the laws differ from one state to another. Plus, some states follow the principle of equitable distribution. It splits property for each party fairly, depending on factors like the duration of the marriage and each spouse’s contribution to the marriage. Others utilize the principle of community property, which aims to divide all assets and debts acquired during the marriage to each party evenly.

So what does the law say about property division in California?

In California, the family law follows the community property standard to determine the assets that each party should get. The courts assume both spouses’ equal rights to all wages, assets, properties, and financial obligations they accumulated during the marriage. The courts hold that both parties must split their marital assets and debts 50/50.

With such laws on property division in California, there’s an increased odds of securing spousal maintenance. After all, one spouse may earn less income than the other yet will still have the same amount of debts after the divorce.

How do the California courts divide the family home?

If the family home is community property, spouses may sell it and divide the net proceeds. They can also decide that one party buys out the other. The buyout often includes paying 50% of the equity to the other spouse. It also includes a loan modification to remove the bought-out party from the mortgage. This leads to giving one party a clean title to the family home.

A buyout doesn’t always include cash payment. The payment can be an offset against other property. It’s a must to hire an experienced divorce lawyer in California to guide you. That way, you’ll know whether a buyout or property offset is the best option for you.

What about dividing properties acquired abroad?

The California courts don’t have jurisdiction over a property abroad. But, they still have a right to divide it indirectly since they have jurisdiction over the parties filing a divorce in California.

Say you and your spouse lived in Australia for years. There, you purchased an investment property within a joint SMSF and through a commercial SMSF loan. If the California courts deem that asset as marital property, the courts could award a certain amount of credit to one spouse. The amount depends on the value of the said asset. Then, the other spouse can have sole ownership of the overseas property.

Again, marital property located in another country can still be divided. That’s as long as the state courts have jurisdiction over the spouses.

Do all assets have to be split 50/50?

Although community property standards state even asset distribution among each party, it doesn’t mean they always have to be. Some situations and conditions can bypass this 50/50 principle. These include:

  • If there’s a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that ensures specific assets remain separate in case of a divorce
  • If the couple agrees on a different plan for dividing assets, and it doesn’t leave one party completely broke

More often than not, dividing property this way will often lead to feelings of unfairness. If one spouse brought in more income for the family, they might feel like they deserve more in a divorce. On the other hand, a spouse who stayed home to take care of the family may not have the skills required to earn a livable income after the divorce.

Since community property laws may seem unfair, you and your spouse may try to split up properties without legal interventions. But if you can’t agree on all facets of your property division, the court will step in. They will make the final decision, which will likely follow California’s community property laws.

Consult with our top divorce lawyer in California.

Dividing assets during a divorce may be more complex than you expect. It’s best to have an experienced divorce lawyer guide you through every decision. Reach out to our firm today. We’ll study your case and keep your best interests in mind throughout the property division. 

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