The saying “nobody gets married to get a divorce” rings true because divorce day looks a lot different than the cake-cutting day. Regardless of the circumstances that led up to separation, divorce can be tough.
Dividing property can increase negative feelings between any couple. California classifies property in two ways: Either as separate property (belonging to one spouse alone) or community property (belonging to the couple together).
What does this mean when it’s time to divide your marital assets? It means that a little goodwill can go a long way during mediation.
How separate property is treated
Someone’s separate property is anything that is owned or acquired before their marriage. This can be physical assets like a mortgage, car, or business. It can also be monetary acquisitions such as income, pensions, and debts. It can also be that which was obtained after the date of separation, or by gift, devise, inheritance or bequest.
How community property is treated
On the other hand, community property is what you and your spouse acquire together during your marriage. The courts will decide what to do with this asset if no agreement can be made before division day.
How commingled property is treated
There are times when one spouse’s separate property gets commingled with marital property. For example, one party may have placed separate property funds into a joint bank account. Depending on the level of commingling, sometimes the separate property funds can be traced. This is easier done when it was one single transaction rather than multiple.
Property may have both a separate and community portion. For example, a house purchased with a separate property down payment from one spouse. In that case, the spouse who made the down payment may be reimbursed for their down payment and the community will then receive the balance.
Mediation may help
Entering into the division of assets phase of a divorce can be painful. If you’re wondering how to divorce with respect and fairness, a mediation process might help you achieve this goal.