One of the most polarizing issues when a couple divorces is dividing property. Spouses may find themselves at an impasse without court intervention.
Property is anything tangible or intangible that holds financial value. Not only is a couple to divide property, but also debt. Get a basic understanding of what the court considers divisible and how it enforces it.
Not all property is equal
While California is a community property state, not everything splits during a divorce. Unless the parties have a marital agreement directing them to divide property a certain way, everything held jointly in both names should split evenly. Anything the couple amassed during their union is marital property and divided in this way. However, one spouse may own property in his or her name only. This may consist of:
- Property owned before the marriage
- Property acquired while married, but without the joint ownership of the other spouse
- Property received via an estate plan or will
Separate property remains with the spouse who owns it. On rare occasions, the court may divide it.
The debt must go somewhere
Debt is anything bought on credit or financed during the marriage. Automobiles, homes and credit cards are the most common type of debts a couple may hold. Since the court does not believe it fair for one spouse to wind up with the debt and the other to walk away, when a couple negotiates a divide of assets, they must similarly split debts. While a court may leave one spouse with more debt, it is not the norm.
Dividing assets and debts may lead a couple down a frustrating and bitter path. However, keeping in mind the way a court may divide things may encourage compromise.