California is a community property state, meaning that upon divorce, marital property (as well as any debt owed) is typically divided evenly. This is one of the most important and potentially impactful parts of a divorce proceeding. Identifying, valuing and dividing marital property can affect the whole family's future in significant ways. The risk of making a mistake during this particular phase of the process can be very costly down the road. Anyone in San Diego who is contemplating divorce is encouraged to contact a local family law attorney with experience handling all aspects of a family law case.
Under California law, there are several ways to characterize property in divorce, and certain categories are subject to equal division between the spouses while others are not. The first type is "community property," or property that the couple acquires during the marriage. It includes everything the couple purchased or attained while married -- including debt. What some people may not realize is that gifts and inheritances do not fall within the definition of community property and are not subject to division, even if attained during the marriage.
Community property covers not only earnings during the marriage, but anything purchased with those earnings. Essentially, each spouse owns one half of the community property. This includes any debts that were incurred during the marriage as well. Spouses may not realize the extent of the community property and debts and may want to seek the help of an attorney to sort it all out. The U-T San Diego recently ran a piece describing one woman's quest to get a hold of her inheritance assets that had been managed by her husband. They are now in the middle of a divorce and he has refused to tell her where the money is. The bottom line is that the inheritance money and related assets belong to the person to whom it was given.