Orange, California Property Law Firm
Dividing property equally
Des Jardins & Haapala in Orange, California is well-versed in community property law. California is known as a “community property” law state. When you divorce or legally separate from your spouse or domestic partner, all property and debts between parties are deemed to be owned equally both, regardless of who bought the property or acquired the debt. Our knowledgeable team can provide the legal guidance you need in the final property settlement.
Definition of property
Anything of value can be defined as property. Here are some examples of things considered property:
- Houses, cars, boats, clothing, furniture
- Copyrights, patents, trademarks
- Bank accounts, stocks, life insurance that has cash value
However, there are items that are not considered property for the purposes of division following a divorce. These may include:
- Assets acquired before marriage: Community property law does not apply to inheritances and property acquired before the marriage and kept separate during the marriage — for example, funds from a trust that was left to you from your mother’s estate and that you kept in a separate bank account from your spouse or domestic partner throughout the entire duration of the marriage or partnership.
- Items covered by pre-nuptial agreements: Couples with pre-nuptial agreements can avoid community property law by setting forth their own terms in writing before marrying or entering into domestic partnership.
- Community and quasi-community property: We have seen cases where a spouse or domestic partner has taken up residence in another state and acquired property outside of California during that time. According to quasi-community property rules, when that spouse or partner returns to California to file for divorce or separation, the California property laws apply and the property is divided equally.
- Mixed community and separate property — commingling: It can be difficult to distinguish between community and separate property. The most common problem is with pension plans. If a pension plan or retirement account was started before and contributions continued to be made to it throughout the marriage or partnership, it can be difficult to divide. In this example, the contributions made before marriage are considered separate property while those contributions made during the marriage are considered community property. We can advise you about how such gray areas are handled under California law.
- The QDRO: A pension plan must actually be “joined” first in order to separate it legally. This action is done through a special court order called a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order). Any mistakes could be costly, so it is important to obtain knowledgeable legal advice to ensure division is handled fairly for all.
Des Jardins & Haapala is here to divide and conquer. For better or worse, community law makes married couples “one community” in the eyes of the law. Our attorneys are qualified in property division in California and can ensure your future needs are addressed.
Contact an experienced property attorney
At Des Jardins & Haapala, we make it our business to get you through this trying time as smoothly as possible. Contact an experienced Orange community property law attorney today. Call us at 714-634-2779 or contact us online.