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What Counts as Community Property Under California Divorce Law?
Generally, any property that you acquire during the marriage is considered community property. This does not apply to anything you bought before the marriage or inherited during the marriage. It also does not apply to interests or other increases in value earned on separate property.
If both parties agree to change the status of an item from community to separate property or vice versa, then the court will allow this. It will need verification, in writing, confirming that you wish to change the status. In some cases, a spouse may inadvertently change separate property into community property if separate assets are co-mingled with community property.
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Determining whether property counts as separate or community property takes up the bulk of the property division process. Determining the value of an asset may require the services of an appraiser or financial assistant if the couple cannot agree. An appraisal may be necessary for real estate, automobiles, stock options, future interests, business interests, retirement assets and certain personal property, such as jewelry or artwork.
How the couple actually decides to divide the property can go a number of different ways, depending on what makes the most sense in the situation:
- Each can physically take half the property
- One spouse can pay the other cash to take the property based on its value
- Spouses can barter illiquid assets worth similar amounts
- Spouses can sell the property and split the proceeds
Everyone has their own reasons for considering divorce, and each couple proceeds with different priorities. Our Orange County Family Law Associates can meet with you, free of charge, and help you figure out your best solution.