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Property Division in California

California is a community property state which means that everything accumulated during the marriage, income, interest, debts, houses, cars, etc. is presumed to belong to both parties. "During marriage" is defined as the period between the wedding date and the Date of Separation.  There are exceptions to this presumption such as gifts and inheritances, but these usually require proof. For instance, a wedding ring is usually presumed to be a gift but courts have found that an expensive diamond bought during the marriage was not a gift but an investment and so not separate but community property.  These are complex issues governed by statute and ever-changing case law and they require thorough analysis by an experienced family law attorney.

Mandatory Financial Disclosure

During your divorce, one of the most important steps is the discovery process – the mandatory and formal exchange of information and records by the parties where they disclose their assets and obligations so that the parties or a judge can decide how the community property will be divided. In most cases property division involves any equity in the family residence, bank accounts, credit card debt, vehicles, and loans.  


More complex cases involve retirement accounts, investment accounts, royalties, patents, or private businesses which may be divided by complex formulas involving the date of acquisition and whether or not the asset was enhanced by the community in some way.  For example, a retirement account that existed prior to the date of marriage, but was also contributed to during and after the marriage.  Other common examples include a business started prior to marriage which grew during the marriage, or a house purchased with an inheritance but with payments made by community income.

Property Division Hazards

Sometimes, couples disagree on the value of an asset, whether it was acquired before or during the marriage, or whether its growth was due to market conditions or individual efforts.  Often times parties fail to consider important tax implications.  All too often divorcing couples make bad deals because they did not consider the future financial consequences.  


At The Law Collaborative we help ensure that nothing is overlooked.  We have substantial experience handling intricate property divisions.  We understand the importance of addressing immediate financial concerns as well as long-term financial planning.  When appropriate, we utilize experts such as Certified Divorce Financial Analysts and Forensic Accountants to provide detailed and accurate valuations, recommendations on the allocation of financial resources, preparation of budgets and money management, and to provide important tax advice. We are committed to designing winning strategies that will protect your and your family's interests and allow you the fresh start you deserve. To speak to an experienced family law attorney about divorce and/or the division of your marital assets and debts, email us at, call (818) 348-6700, or fill out a case evaluation form.