Property division can be one of the most complex aspects of a California divorce. After many years of marriage, you and your spouse have likely accumulated a substantial amount of property, which must now be divided between the two of you.
California law states that property must be divided fairly between spouses. However, you cannot determine what constitutes a fair division until you know all the property you are dealing with.
Before you begin the property division process, both you and your spouse need to complete a financial disclosure. This is a list of all property that must be divided.
Community and separate property
Your property can be classified as community or separate property. Community property is property purchased and owned by you and your spouse during your marriage.
Separate property is property owned only by you before your marriage or after you are separated. Gifts or inheritances can also be considered separate property.
Community property is the property that gets divided. Your financial disclosure should list both types of property but indicate any property that is separate property.
Your disclosure must be complete and accurate
It is important to be honest on your financial disclosure. You might have property that you do not want to share with, or potentially lose to, your spouse, so you could be tempted to not list it on the disclosure.
This is a bad idea. First, even if you do not list it, there are ways the property can still be discovered in the divorce process, especially if your spouse knows it exists.
Second, a judge will look unfavorably upon you if they learn you were dishonest on your financial disclosure. Your spouse could even end up with a higher share of property to make up for your dishonesty.
A financial disclosure is required to get divorced. You do not have to file the disclosure itself with the court, but you must file a form confirming that you completed this requirement. Your financial disclosure gets shared with your spouse.
Once your financial disclosure is complete and you have received your spouse’s financial disclosure, you are ready to begin negotiating property division. It is best to do this with the help of a family law attorney.