Under California law, assets and debts that accrue during a marriage are generally considered community property–in other words, they belong equally to both parties in the marriage. There are exceptions such as personal gifts, inheritance and where the spouses designate certain property as separate property in a binding written agreement. When the couple divorces, the community property must be divided between the two individuals.
“Property” when used in this context refers to both assets and debts (debts are a negative form of property). You are responsible for all community debts incurred by either party during the date of marriage and the date of separation.
Assets and debt incurred before the date of marriage are separate property as are those incurred after the date of separation (except for debts incurred for “common necessaries of life” for a spouse and/or children of the marriage).
Property, such as a house or 401(k), can be characterized as being both community property and separate property. Dividing property can be complicated in such situations. The California Family Code and case law provide guidance in determining the proper characterization and means for division. We can advise you on property issues and assist you in drafting or negotiating a property settlement agreement. Contact us today.