You’ve probably heard mention time and time again of “getting half” of everything in a divorce. But is this really how things work in California, and how long do you have to be married to be entitled to your spouse’s income and assets?
Let’s take a closer look at the issues at hand. First, we have the concept of “getting half.”
In California, there is no 50/50 split of marital property. When a married couple gets divorced, their assets will be divided equitably. This means they will be divided fairly and equally. After all, how can you split a family home in two? How could a 50/50 split be applied to a family-owned business or even personal property like furniture, art collections, vehicles, or investment properties? A different formula must apply to fairly divide property, assets, and even debt in a divorce.
Community vs. Separate Property
First, there is the issue of what is considered “community property” and what is considered “separate property.” Only marital property is subject to division in a divorce, as it is deemed shared between spouses. Separate property is owned by spouses individually and is not subject to distribution.
Any property (and debt) that spouses acquire during the marriage is considered community property, even if it is in only one spouse’s name. This may include:
- Motor vehicles
- Real estate
- Investment accounts
- Bank accounts
- A Business
The following are examples of separate property:
- Anything you owned before you were married
- Anything you purchase with gifts or inheritances
As already mentioned, property division is not a 50/50 split, but it is a fair and equal one. You and your spouse must come to an agreement regarding an equitable division of your assets and debt, or the court can make this determination for you.
The property division process will involve several critical first steps:
- Making a list of everything you own
- Determining what is community property and what is separate property
- Filling out a Schedule of Assets and Debts and exchanging this with your spouse
At this point, you can get a good idea of what debt and assets you’re dealing with. You may be able to work out a division of property on your own, but if you run into trouble, you can consider mediation as a collaborative approach. If you don’t want to try to negotiate an agreement, you may need to go to court.
When Property Division Is Decided by the Courts
When the courts decide on property division, they will look at community versus separate property, the value of all property, and how it can be fairly divided between spouses. If one spouse keeps the family home, for example, the other may get other assets. This is handled on a case by case basis and may vary greatly depending on the specific situation, type of assets, and other factors.
Spousal Support & the Length of the Marriage
The concept of being married for a certain period of time in order to “get half of everything” may have something to do with spousal support, which can be directly affected by the length of the marriage.
In California, a marriage that lasts under 10 years will have a set duration of spousal support, which is typically half the length of the marriage. If a marriage lasted more than 10 years, there is no set time limit on spousal support. The amount of spousal support is not equal to half of the paying spouse’s wages. It is instead determined based on each spouse’s income and living expenses and a host of other factors.
Click here to read more about spousal support in California.
Make Sure You’re Protected During & After Your Divorce
Divorce is life-changing, but it doesn’t have to change your life for the worse. You can create a stable future for yourself and your children, if you have any, by taking the right approach and working with an experienced attorney.
As Southern California divorce attorneys, we at the Law Offices of H. William Edgar are devoted to protecting our clients’ interests. If you come to us for guidance related to property division and spousal support, you can count on the fact that we’ll provide honest insight. Our team understands that each divorce is unique and must be treated as such. And we fight to secure fair results.