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Distinguishing between marital and separate property in a CA divorce

It is important to understand the difference between marital and separated property when filling for divorce in California.

One of the biggest challenges couples face when going through a divorce is the division of property, assets and debt. While some couples remedy this issue by dividing their own property and customizing a divorce settlement through mediation, there are others that rely on the California court system to determine who gets what. Contrary to what some people may think, however, not all property is eligible for division when terminating a marriage.

What is separate property?

Property and assets that were owned by a party before he or she got married may remain with that person after a divorce is finalized, according to Forbes. For example, if a person owned a piece of property before getting married and the property title remained solely in their name throughout the duration of the marriage, it may be considered separate property. That property would not be eligible for division in the divorce settlement.

Gifts that are given to either party by someone other than the spouse before, during or after the marriage could be considered separate property as well. According to the American Bar Association, this includes any inheritance money that a spouse receives. In some cases, separate property can be changed into marital property if a spouse's name is added to the property title. Similarly, inheritance money or monetary gifts that are deposited into a joint account with the other spouse can also lose its 'separate property' status.

Understanding marital property

According to Forbes, marital property includes everything that a couple has amassed during their years of marriage. In addition to homes, vehicles, furniture, appliances, recreational items and electronics, marital property may include the following:

  • 401K plans, stock options, bonuses
  • Timeshare properties
  • Country club memberships
  • Rare art, coin or other types of collections
  • Patents and trademarks

Each spouse is legally obligated to disclose all of their property and assets, whether they are considered marital or separate property.

When to involve an attorney

If you are in the midst of a divorce, you may have questions as to what you are entitled to in the divorce settlement. It can be difficult to understand the legal process when you are involved in an emotional martial separation. Rather than make uninformed decisions, it may be best to consult a family attorney who has a full understanding of California divorce laws. A lawyer may be able to help ensure that you get what is rightfully yours in the divorce settlement.

At the Law Offices of Cherie T. Davis, we are dedicated to providing high-caliber legal services tailored to your family’s needs. Meet with one of our experienced attorneys to learn about your options and how we can help you achieve your goals.

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