When a couple in California wants to avoid an expensive divorce, it is usually best if they determine between themselves how they will divide up the property acquired while they were married.
California is a community property state; this means that any income and property earned from day one of the marriage, with some exceptions, is owned by both parties jointly. Separate property is any property owned before the marriage, as well as any inheritance, gifts, or personal injury settlements. A property settlement will declare which property is community property and which is separate property, and it will dictate who will be awarded what assets and debts from the estate.
So, does everything get divided in half, 50/50?
Not really. The court has to divide things equitably, so it does not necessarily mean that everything gets split down the middle. Rather, each side will get an equitable (fair) share of property, including assets and debts. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, each spouse should get about an equal net share of the property. If the court is doing the division, the judge will look to each spouse’s financial position, including earning power, custody of the children, liabilities associated with the property, and if there was any bad behavior, like wasting the community estate. Wasting is buying expensive items or giving money away without the consent of the other spouse. If the parties are doing the division, it helps to also consider the financial position of each spouse and determine an equitable split between the two. Sometimes, this means that even if one spouse gets a huge asset, like the house, they might also be saddled with a huge debt, like the mortgage.
How do settlements affect alimony?
Alimony, or spousal support, may not be awarded if the recipient spouse also receives a sizable share of the property division. The goal of spousal support is to maintain a party at a certain, comfortable level that they enjoyed during the marriage, until they can support themselves, as long as the other spouse is able to provide this support. If the spouse receives a large cash settlement, or gets a home with little to no mortgage and is still able to work and support themselves, there may not be any alimony awarded.
Can my spouse and I come up with a property division agreement without involving the court?
Not completely, but you can avoid contentious (and expensive) litigation if you and your spouse agree, Each of you must fully disclose all of your known assets, debts and the estimated value of each. This is done through court forms such as the Schedule of Assets and Debts (Form FL-142). This will give you a better idea of what the community estate looks like so you can divide it up fairly.
The division will be done through a marital settlement agreement, or MSA, which must be signed by each party before submitting it to the court. This must be attached to a judgment form (FL-180) in order for it to be enforceable. This means that the court has the power to require each party to give up their interest in any property they have awarded to the other spouse. Once this has been done, the judge must approve of the agreement and sign the divorce orders. There will not be a contested hearing, so, while you can’t avoid court intervention entirely, you can make sure you have an easy divorce if you and your spouse can remain reasonable and willing to work together.
Contact A Long Beach Divorce Attorney
Regardless, it is important to speak to a divorce attorney about property settlements. Sometimes, merely assigning a debt does not ensure that you will be fully protected, as California creditors are still able to go after each spouse equally. Properly characterizing an asset as community property or separate property or both can be difficult. Furthermore, when dividing up pensions or retirements, additional paperwork is necessary to ensure everything is transferred accurately. An experienced family law attorney in Long Beach, Ca can help ensure you are protected from any additional liability.
If you think you need guidance to determine your best options, but cannot afford a traditional Divorce Attorney, contact the Shoreline Legal Group LLP where we’re simplifying the legal process step by step. Our low cost divorce attorneys provide inexpensive divorce options for those needing a low cost divorce in California. Serving Long Beach, Cerritos, Santa Ana, and Orange, CA as well as surrounding areas.