There are ways to protect your personal wealth during a California divorce. However, doing so requires a clear understanding of how the state defines and divides marital and separate property at the end of a marriage.
The following offers suggestions to ensure your separate property remains with you following a divorce, along with any marital property you may choose to retain.
California is a Community Property State
California is a community property state. This means that property acquired during a marriage belongs equally to the spouses. This includes real or personal property regardless of its location.
Either spouse may manage or control community property, and community property is subject to spousal debts.
Separate Property in California
Spouses acquire separate property before marriage or in one of the following ways:
- By gift or inheritance;
- Through a premarital or postmarital agreement; or
- As a result of the sale or proceeds from separate property such as rent or profits.
One spouse’s creditor may not make a claim against the separate property of the other spouse, and a spouse’s separate property remains with them after a divorce.
Co-Mingled or Mixed Property in California
Mixed property is separate property that becomes so entangled with marital property that it is difficult to trace to its separate source. For example, mixed property may be used to fund or purchase marital property, or it may be separate property that the non-owner spouse contributes to in value.
Making a separate property claim to co-mingled property requires tracing the separate property to its source.
Take an Inventory of Separate and Marital Property
The first step in presenting an argument for your separate property is knowing what you are claiming as separate property and how these items were acquired. Make a list noting your valuables, accounts, or other assets.
Take a photo inventory of any tangible items and ensure they are safely stored. Trace their origin and obtain written evidence or account documentation where available of their separate nature.
Do the same for any marital property, as its identification is imperative for a fair division of marital property. Also, if a separate property claim is difficult to make, you may choose to trade a marital item to keep a separate item as yours alone.
Have All Property Appraised or Otherwise Valued
A professional appraisal, forensic accountant, or another professional can help value community and separate property. The court will use this information when deciding marital property division.
Do not sell, transfer, or otherwise alter any property during or leading up to your divorce. This reflects poorly on you, could violate court injunctions once the divorce is filed, and may result in your receiving less property in any property ruling.
Work with an Experienced Bay Area Divorce Attorney
Divorces that involve complex or high-value assets require the skills and experience of a successful San Francisc0 divorce attorney. At Moradi Saslaw, our divorce attorneys can assist you with protecting your assets at any time before you marry, during your marriage, or amid a divorce.
Contact Moradi Saslaw today to discuss a premarital or postmarital agreement. Or, speak with one of our legal professionals about tracing your separate property in anticipation of a divorce.