When two spouses make the difficult decision to divorce, there may be many reasons or events that triggered that decision. Regardless of how the couple landed at their decision, they must now move forward into the division of assets and how to make one life become two again. Many people have anxiety about this topic while thinking about, or going through an impending divorce. Division of assets is handled differently in community property states in comparison to common law states.
The majority of U.S. states follow common law rules for division of assets in a divorce. However, California is one of only a handful of states that follow the community property law. Under community property law, any asset or debt obtained during the marriage is considered community property and thus is property that is to be split 50/50 between the divorcing spouses. This means any businesses, money markets, credit card debt or other asset taken out during the duration of the marriage is fair game for 50/50 split.
This can be good news or not-so-good news depending on the spouse's situation. If a spouse started a business during the marriage, this may be troublesome news as you are worried about the status of the business post-divorce. However, if you were the homemaker and your spouse was the wage earner, this may sound like good news since you likely gave up personal growth and a career in lieu of your family and the home. In California, debt and property and divided equally in most cases.
Since California law has a fairly rigid interpretation as to what should happen to property and debt in a divorce, this can paint a picture of how the marital property division may play out. Other states are more lenient and the laws are up for interpretation by a judge or by the parties themselves if they choose to negotiate. Separate property, or property obtained outside the marriage, is usually left off the table during the division. Discover what property is community and what property is separate and you can get an idea of what your asset division may look like, post-divorce.
Source: family.findlaw.com, "Community Property Overview," Accessed December 26, 2016