When a California couple decides to end their marriage, property division is a frequent topic of dispute. It can sometimes be an issue that can fester and extend the case as the parties determine who has the right to what property. In general, the property will be either community or separate property. Community meaning it belongs to both parties; separate meaning it belongs to the individuals. Some property, however, is mixed community and separate. This is also known as commingling.
Examples of commingling might be when one of the parties owned a home prior to the marriage and sold it to accrue the down payment on another house after the couple got married. The down payment is separate property because it emanated from a home the one person owned. However, with the new home the couple has purchased, the equity of the home being paid for is community property since it occurred while the couple was married. Therefore, the equity will be commingled, and this must be accounted for as the value of the property is split when the spouses part ways.
Commingling can also be an issue with retirement accounts or a pension that one of the spouses had started from a job prior to the marriage. It will be separate before the marriage. But if there are contributions to it after the couple has gotten married, then it will be community property. Once the couple decides the end the marriage, these accounts will revert to being separate property. Various types of property can be separate, community and then commingled. Since people will often want to be awarded the valuable properties such as a home or a retirement account, this can be a contentious matter during the divorce.
There are many different factors that go into property division in a divorce. The designation of the property as community, separate or commingled; its value; how to divide it; how to divide debts and more will come to the forefront. Whether the case is laden with disputes or is amicable, it is important to have legal assistance with property division.
Source: courts.ca.gov, "Property and Debt in a Divorce or Legal Separation -- Mixed Community and Separate Property -- Commingling," accessed Feb. 12, 2018