Most people in Sacramento County understand that a divorce involves the division of property owned by the couple. An understanding of the types of property that a couple may acquire during their marriage can help understand the process of dividing those assets.
The law recognizes two broad categories of property: personal property and real property. The latter category includes real estate and interests in real estate, such as mortgages and contracts to convey. Personal property includes everything else, from savings accounts to fine art to automobiles. California law imposes different requirements on the division of real and personal property, and the difference often depends on when the asset was acquired.
Under California law, every couple has both community property and separate property. Community property includes every asset acquired by the couple during their marriage, and separate property includes assets acquired by each spouse prior to the marriage. California’s community property law requires that community property be divided equally between the spouses. This rule does not mean that every asset must be divided equally; rather, it means that the entirety of the couple’s community assets must be divided equally. For example, only spouse could take three community assets worth $50,000 each for a total of $150,000. The other spouse could take a single asset worth $150,000, thereby satisfying the requirement for an equal division.
Separate assets are not divided. Each spouse is entitled to keep the separate property that they owned before the marriage.
Property division for couples who have accumulated a significant amount of assets can be very complex, requiring the assistance of accounts, appraisers and attorneys. Anyone who is contemplating a divorce that will require the division of a significant amount of community property may want to get more information about valuing the assets, methods of dividing assets and any tax consequences that the division may entail.