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Preparing for divorce? Understand property in California

In California, property division is handled equitably. That means that unless you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement stating otherwise, your assets are divided in as fair a manner as possible during divorce. The courts look at a variety of factors to determine what's equitable if you and your spouse can't come up with a property division agreement on your own.

Community property is defined as anything that two people own together. For instance, if you and your spouse share a bank account, that money is community property. If you purchase a sofa using money from a shared account, it belongs to both of you. If you acquire debt during your marriage, that debt is shared between you.

Property can be almost anything, but it's best defined as something that can be sold or bought. For instance, you can buy clothing, houses, cars or other items. These are all kinds of property. Property might also include things of value like your retirement savings account, pension plans and business.

Generally speaking, the items that you owned before marriage remain yours and aren't divided during divorce. The same is true with inheritances and items you purchase with inheritances. The only exception is if you begin to commingle assets, which is when you begin to share them with your spouse. At that point, the property becomes community property and may be divisible during your divorce.

The way you define your property makes a difference during divorce. Keep your documents on hand, so your attorney can help you protect the items that you want to keep for yourself. Our website has more information on what you should keep as a record of your assets.

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