California Divorce Entitlements: Property
When you file for divorce in California, any property you acquired prior to marriage, during your marriage by gift, devise, or bequest, or after the date of legal separation is deemed separate property and will remain legally yours upon the dissolution of your marriage. The court considers this property “separate property“.
On the other hand, any acquired asset, debt, or income a married person earns while living with a spouse is community property. California law requires the community estate to be divided equally between divorcing spouses unless otherwise agreed upon by both parties. For example, if a spouse obtained a professional degree or license during the marriage, the community may be eligible for reimbursement of the costs of acquiring it. Such costs may include tuition, fees, and books.
Other examples of community property include:
- Bank accounts and cash
- Pension plans and retirement accounts
California law considers residences acquired during marriage community property. Thus, spouses divorcing in California must determine how they will evenly divide community residences. When dividing community property and debt, the net value of each spouse’s share must be equal unless the parties agree otherwise. Therefore, one spouse may be awarded a vacation property and the other awarded the family residence, granted that they are of equal value.
If the spouses have minor children, the primary custodial parent may be awarded the permanent residence. Then, they may reside there with the children for a specified period of time. However, this spouse must usually pay the mortgage, property tax, and upkeep expenses unless otherwise agreed upon by both parties.
Retirement Accounts and Pension Plans
Like residences, retirement and pension benefits obtained or funded during marriage will usually be divided equally between spouses at the time of divorce. To divide retirement plans, a divorcing couple must prepare a qualified domestic relations order.
On the other hand, the court will oversee the division of pension plans as a reservation of jurisdiction or a cash out. First, under a reservation of jurisdiction, the court may order that upon the retirement of the employed spouse, the other must receive a percentage of each pension check. They calculate this percentage by dividing the years the spouses lived together in marriage or partnership by the total amount of years the employed spouse participated in the plan. In contrast, under the cash out method, or actuarial evaluation, the court will determine the “present value” of the community share of the pension plan. Upon cash out, the employed spouse may receive the pension plan in its entirety. Then, the other spouse will receive other community property assets of equivalent total value.
California Divorce Entitlements: Spousal Support
Upon divorce in California, you may be entitled to spousal support. A spousal support order requires one spouse or domestic partner to pay the other a specified amount of money each month. When determining whether to award spousal support, a judge will consider several factors, such as:
- Length of the marriage
- Domestic violence
- Age and health of both parties
- Supporting spouse’s ability to pay
- Tax consequences
- Goal of self-support
Downsides to Focusing on Entitlements in California Divorce Law
Believe it or not, focusing on entitlements in a California divorce may not be in your or your spouse’s best interest. In fact, focusing on entitlements in divorce could cause a big fight between parties. Not only do fights complicate settlements, but they can also affect the family dynamic if children are involved. For example, if one party’s entitlement to spousal and child support puts unreasonable financial pressure on their counterpart, the situation may further damage the split family’s dynamics.
Therefore, parties may benefit from focusing on compromise and agreements when settling a California divorce. Specifically, couples should consider what they’re willing to agree on, instead of what they’re entitled to. Believe it or not, couples who focus more on compromise and agreement than entitlement complete the divorce process with fewer repercussions. Plus, they are often happier with their final settlement.
Let A People’s Choice Help With Your California Divorce
At A People’s Choice, we can help you file for divorce and avoid expensive attorney fees. Although we are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice, we offer a different perspective to better help clients get through divorce in California. Therefore, if you’re looking to settle your California divorce case with the least damage possible, contact us for more information about how we can help you.
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