For many Los Angeles couples, deciding to file for divorce or legal separation is the most difficult decision they’ve ever had to make. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be their last. There are a number of important matters that must be decided on during the divorce process, including child custody and spousal support, and for many divorced or divorcing couples in Los Angeles, an affluent city home to many high net worth individuals, the division and assignment of marital property weighs in at the top. To find out more about how your marital assets may be divided in divorce, contact our knowledgeable divorce lawyers today at (213) 550-4600 for a free initial property division consultation. Our attorneys can help you understand what will be expected of you when you divide your marital assets and can explain in detail the legal and financial implications of your divorce.
Understanding California’s Community Property Laws
Once you and your spouse decide to go your separate ways, you must then decide how the various assets and debts you’ve accumulated during your marriage will be divided between the two of you. Marital property laws vary state by state, but California is a community property state, which means that each spouse is legally entitled to half of the marital estate in divorce, which includes both assets and liabilities classified as community property, or property acquired by the couple during the course of their marriage. One of the only exceptions to this rule is the existence of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the terms of which may override California’s equal division of marital property provision. Furthermore, any separate property, including gifts, inheritances or other assets owned by the spouse prior to the marriage, is typically not subject to California’s community property laws.
Cataloging Your Marital Assets and Debts
When you get a divorce in California, you and your spouse will be required to make an exhaustive list of your property, assets and debts, both community and separate. In order to fairly divide what is considered by law to be your marital property, you and your spouse must be honest and forthcoming about disclosing your accumulated assets and debts. Any attempt to hide income or failure to disclose assets may result in serious legal consequences and will only further complicate the divorce and property division process. As you are preparing for the divorce process, it may help to create a preliminary list of your property and assets, so you are fully prepared when asked to present the final valuation of your marital property.
Under California’s community property law, in the absence of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, you and your spouse will be entitled to exactly one half of what is determined to be your community or marital property. Some marital assets will be fairly easy to divide. For instance, if you and your spouse own two vehicles, each spouse may be awarded one of the vehicles, though there may be some contention here if one of the vehicles is worth a great deal more than the other. In cases such as this, the couple may agree to sell one or both vehicles and split the proceeds evenly. There are many ways in which a divorcing couple can make the divorce process easier and far less messy and contentious, the most important being their ability to agree to the equal distribution of these assets on their own or with the help of an attorney, without going to court.
Handling Property Division Disputes in LA
Unfortunately, there are many types of marital property that are not so easy to divide right down the middle. For instance, the family home, accrued employee retirement benefits, valuable items you received as gifts for your marriage, and family businesses are some examples of community property that is not easily split up. You may both want to keep the family home, or your spouse may want to sell the property and split the profit. It is these types of disputes that a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can help avoid. In the absence of such an agreement, there are provisions in place in California’s divorce code that lay out how splitting up community property that cannot be divided equally should be handled. For example, if your spouse is awarded the family home, California law stipulates that you must receive property that is equal in value to the home. It is in these types of situations that having a knowledgeable Los Angeles divorce attorney on your side is imperative.
Prioritizing Your Marital Property and Assets
The most important thing to do when preparing for a divorce in Los Angeles is taking the time to prioritize your assets so you know what property you own, what you’re willing to give up and what is most important to you to keep. This can help make what would otherwise be an overwhelming and complicated process simpler, more streamlined and less contentious. And even though you and your spouse are preparing to separate, it is still important to be open and honest about your expectations during this process, including what property you absolutely want to walk away with when the divorce is finalized. If you and your spouse are unable to communicate effectively without making matters worse, you may want to consider using a third-party mediator or a collaborative divorce process to settle your divorce.
Couples in Los Angeles who can’t agree on how their property and debts should be divided in divorce will likely end up going to court, where a judge will make the decision for them. Although our attorneys at Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles typically advise couples to attempt to work with one another to reach an amicable solution to their property division issues, we are always prepared to go to trial on behalf of our clients and represent their best interests before the court. Our lawyers have extensive experience representing clients in all areas of family law, and we can help ensure that your marital property is divided fairly. Furthermore, we can ensure that any separate property or assets you owned prior to the marriage remains under your control after the divorce. Whether you handle your own property division and assignment, or a court makes the decisions for you, there are three important steps to the process:
- Determining whether the property (assets and debts) is marital or separate;
- Agreeing on the value of the marital property; and
- Deciding how to evenly divide the marital property.
Free Property Division Consultation in Los Angeles
For many Los Angeles couples, getting divorced is a chance to be freed from an unhappy or abusive marriage, but having your marital assets divided 50-50 under California’s community property laws may not afford you the financial freedom you expected. For more information about filing for divorce in Los Angeles and how marital property division works, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles. With our legal team on your side, you can safeguard your financial freedom and ensure that your marital assets are divided fairly and equitably. Contact us today at (213) 550-4600 for a free initial consultation.
Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles
5455 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: (213) 550-4600