Property Division How Does it Work in a Community Property State

Property Division: How Does it Work in a Community Property State

State divorce laws govern divorce settlements. Generally, state laws allow either community property or equitable distribution schemes when dividing a couple’s assets. However, only nine states use community property law: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. If you live in a community property state, it’s important to understand how property division will work if you or your spouse files for divorce.

Separate vs. Community Property

The basic rule of thumb is that a couple’s community property and debts are split 50-50 during a divorce. However, not all of a married couple’s assets are divided. Property can be either separate or community.

  • Most assets and debts accumulated by either spouse during the marriage are considered community property.
  • However, assets and debts brought into the marriage by one person usually remain the separate property of that person.

Separate property usually does not enter into the divorce property division equation.

Although this sounds simple, determining whether something is separate or community property can be complicated.  Separate assets brought into the marriage may be used in a way that make them community property. An inheritance received during a marriage is separate property but mixing the inherited property with community property could change it for the purposes of property division.

Marital Settlement Agreement or Court Decision?

During the property division phase of a divorce, the couple can negotiate how property is split. Their agreement does not have to be 50-50, but the division should be fairly equal. Otherwise, a judge may not sign off on the couples’ marital settlement agreement.

When calculating property division, a couple will:

  • review financial disclosures, including the Schedule of Assets and Debts;
  • make sure both parties agree on community property and debts;
  • compare property valuations and debt to make sure they agree;
  • propose a roughly equal net share of property and debts for each spouse.

Special consideration may be given to retirement plans, debts with complicated terms or high interest rates,

If a couple cannot agree on the split, a judge may make the tough decisions for them. Also, remember that property remains separate or community until the judge signs your final divorce order.

Make Sure Your Property Division Goes Smoothly

Talk to an experienced California divorce attorney today. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with divorce matters in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, San Diego, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
How Long Will I Have to Pay Spousal Support

How Long Will I Have to Pay Spousal Support?

Jennifer knew she might have to pay spousal support to her husband, Blake. After all, her income had been much higher than his for most of their 12-year marriage. However, as they negotiated their marital settlement, she couldn’t help but ask her attorney, “How long will I have to pay spousal support to Blake?” The answer to her question depended on a number of factors.

General Reasons the Court May End Spousal Support

In some cases, the court may not order spousal support in the dissolution of a marriage or domestic partnership. Based on the couple’s standard of living or earning capacity, neither spouse may be economically disadvantaged after the divorce.

If spousal support is ordered, the person who is paying (the “payor”) may want to know how long they will be required to pay. Spousal support, also known as domestic support or alimony, may end under the following circumstances:

  • A court order or judgment;
  • One of the parties dies; or
  • The person receiving spousal supporting remarries or registers a domestic partnership.

Many factors play into the question of whether spousal support will be ordered and for how long.

The Length of the Marriage Matters

The California Family Code (the “Code”) contains laws regarding divorce, including spousal support. Section 4320 states that the supported party (the person receiving alimony) is expected to be self-supporting within a reasonable time frame. “Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a “reasonable period of time” for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage…”

For example, if Jennifer and Blake had been married eight years, Jennifer might be ordered to pay spousal support to Blake for four years. This assumes that the request for spousal support meets all other requirements.

However, a “marriage of long duration” is generally considered to be any marriage over ten years. Unless the parties agree otherwise or a court order terminates support, the court continues to oversee, or retain jurisdiction, indefinitely for marriages of long duration. Because Jennifer and Blake have been married 12 years, their marriage fits the definition of a marriage of long duration.

How Long Will You Pay Spousal Support?

There’s no easy answer here. Whether a party pays spousal support, how much support will be paid, and how long payments last depends on the particular facts of your case. In addition, some decisions are up to the judge’s discretion.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Diego, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.