Community property division in a California Divorce. There is no question but that divorce can be ugly and difficult, or amicable and seamless. Here is something not everyone thinks about right off the bat: divorce can be expensive! Just look at some of these celebrity settlements:
- Rupert & Anna Murdoch: Rupert forked over $110 million in cash as part of a $1.7 billion settlement;
- Mel & Robyn Gibson: The couple decided an even split of Mel’s $850 million net worth was fair;
- Michael & Juanita Jordan: In what appeared to be an amicable settlement, Michael agreed to a $168 million settlement.
- Steven Spielberg & Amy Irving: Amy walked away with $100 million after four years of marriage;
- Madonna & Guy Ritchie: Madonna paid Ritchie somewhere between $76 and $92 million.
- Kevin Costner & Cindy Silva: Costner parted with $80 million.
It is guaranteed that none of these celebs took on a divorce without competent legal help, and neither should you.
Community Property Division in California
While you may not be a millionaire, you should be clear about the fact that every penny of your shared marital assets is fair game in a divorce. California is a community property state. That means that all assets and debts accrued during the marriage are evenly divided between the divorcing spouses. Whether you own a mansion or are renting an apartment, here is some legal lingo with which you should be familiar:
- Marital Property: This includes any earnings that occurred during the marriage, and items obtained with those earnings. The same goes for debt.
- Separate Property: This refers to assets accrued prior to the marriage, as well as inheritances, gifts, pension proceeds that were vested prior to the marriage, and items purchased with separate funds. These monies stay with the person who had them to start with.
- The Marital Home: Generally the home may stay in the hands of the custodial parent if there are children involved. That parent would be responsible for the mortgage and associated costs, barring a huge income disparity between the parties. Once the children are no longer minors, the house could be sold and the proceeds divided.
- Retirement Benefits: Depending on the type of plan, one party may choose to cash-out another, or benefits may be shared as they are paid out.
What About Community Property Division and the Engagement and Wedding Ring?
What if the engagement ring was a family heirloom that had passed through the giver’s family for generations? Does the giver have any hope of getting it back? The courts say no—rings purchased and exchanged prior to the I do’s count as personal, separate property, regardless of sentimental value (California Civil Code 1590).