What Am I Entitled to in a California Divorce?

People who seek a fast divorce in California are often shocked by how complex the process of division of property can become. What many expect to be a simple process is complicated thanks to California’s community property laws. 

Under these laws, you may not receive the property that you believe you should. Here’s a rough outline of what you are (and aren’t) entitled to in a California divorce.

What is Community Property Law?

California law defines community property as any property you or your spouse acquire during your marriage. Courts consider such property to be owned equally by the spouses regardless of who acquired it and will divide it equally unless you and your ex-spouse agree to divide it differently. 

The list of what is considered community property includes homes, cars, businesses, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and more. 

How Does Property Get Divided Equally?

A judge won’t order you and your ex-spouse to split your home down the middle physically. Instead, the property division’s goal is to ensure that both parties get an equal portion of all the assets’ value combined. So, if one spouse receives a car purchased during the marriage, the other spouse will get assets equal to the vehicle’s value. 

The process becomes more complicated when both parties use a spouse’s assets acquired before the marriage during the marriage itself. 

Similarly, a spouse who makes payments towards property owned by their partner has invested in it and has partial ownership. You can avoid potentially messy and time-consuming situations like these by reaching an agreement with your ex-spouse as part of your divorce proceedings. This is often quite difficult, however, as divorces are rarely a tidy affair.

What About Cash?

Believe it or not, California divorce laws treat cash and similar assets much the same way as property, with a few exceptions.

Cash and liquid assets earned or acquired during the marriage become community property. However, this doesn’t apply to money given as a gift, which typically remains the sole property of the person who received them.

Accounts that you both contributed to will be equally divided, including retirement accounts. Keep in mind that a judge won’t order the funds in a retirement account dispersed and divided. Instead, they’ll typically have it split into two equal accounts. 

Remember that what you acquire before you marry will remain yours. This includes cash and liquid assets, but only if you can prove they were yours before marriage. This could mean keeping receipts and bank statements as records. If you fail to do this or you and your ex-spouse shared accounts, your property may be considered commingling. 

With commingling property, it becomes challenging to determine who the original owner is. When it comes to property division in a divorce, sorting out commingling property can consume a lot of time and resources. 

Understandably, someone may lack the foresight to keep evidence of separate property, which is another reason it’s advisable to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse rather than leave the property division up to the courts.

Am I Entitled to Alimony?

Courts do not automatically grant alimony (also referred to as spousal support) as part of California divorce law. Instead, you must request it. If you do, the court will look to multiple factors, such as income earned, and decide. If a judge grants alimony, it’s to ensure that both parties can continue their lifestyles for some time. 

In most instances, alimony is awarded to a spouse who worked less, didn’t work at all, or was mostly responsible for raising the child. Despite popular misconception, alimony rulings aren’t designed to favor one party over the other.  

It’s important to note that a judge won’t grant alimony just because it is requested. An essential factor a judge will look at is how long you were married before the divorce. The shorter you’ve been married, the less likely you’ll be awarded alimony.

Who Is Entitled to Child Custody?

Unlike division of property, the rules to determine who will get custody of a child have many variables. Ultimately the court’s ruling will be in the best interest of the child. A judge will take each spouse’s financial standing, employment status, criminal history, and relationship with the child into determination. 

If the divorce results in joint custody, it may not evenly split each parent’s time with the child. A sole custody ruling might require the non-custodial parent to pay child support separate from alimony. 

You Can Rely on Azemika & Azemika

If you are going through a divorce and are unsure how your assets will be divided, Azemika & Azemika is here to help. 

For comprehensive legal counsel on your options during your divorce or legal separation, contact Azemika & Azemika, Kern County Divorce Attorneys. We will provide the guidance and representation you need to ensure your rights are protected, and we will fight for you and your family to help you get the resolution you deserve.

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