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Property Division in California Divorce

Orange County Divorce Attorney

In a divorce, property division can be a troubling issue that turns divorce negotiations into a messy dispute. To preserve your separate property and achieve an equitable division of community property in your divorce, your lawyer should possess knowledge of California's property division laws and recent case law. At Kevin B. Gibbs, APLC, I have been representing clients dealing with complex divorce issues for more than 25 years. As a board-certified family law specialist in Orange County, I can get my clients informed on all the facts and help them take steps to ensure their property settlements reflect their needs.

Equitable Division in California

California recognizes equitable property division laws. This means that almost all property acquired during a marriage, with only a few exceptions, is considered community property. Community property can be divided equally between spouses in a divorce. In a traditional divorce through court litigation, the judge makes the final decision on how property is divided. You may not be able to modify a property settlement after a final decision is made, even if your interests are misrepresented or a judge's decision does not effectively reflect your needs.

Common examples of community property in a marriage include the following:

  • Real property (homes, rental property, etc.)
  • Bank accounts
  • Income
  • Businesses
  • Cars
  • Furniture
  • Pensions/investments/retirement plans

Separate Property is Yours to Keep

Separate property is exempt from laws of equitable division, which means that they cannot be divided equally between spouses in a divorce. Separate property includes any property you had before your marriage, as well as any gifts and inheritances you received during your marriage. However, the line between separate and community property can sometimes blur, such as if you make enhanced changes to separate property during a marriage.

In some of these situations, a spouse may take legal action to acquire value for separate property if it was altered during the course of a marriage. An Orange County divorce lawyer can help spouses recreate and/or trace back the origin of separate property to confirm whether it has maintained its status. If you have separate property you want to protect in the event of divorce, you should consult a legal professional capable of addressing multiple legal issues in a case.

Modifying Property Division Settlements

It is essential to have your property arrangements in order before property division is settled because property settlements in court-litigated divorce agreements are almost always permanent. It is very difficult to successfully petition a judge to make a post-judgment modification to property settlements. Usually, the only way to do this is by being able to show the court that your spouse was hiding property assets. Taking the initiative before a property settlement may be the only way to ensure that your needs are met.

Alternative Methods of Dividing Property

Advanced preparation may help to prevent accidental misjudgments and fraudulent actions from negatively impacting your future. Negotiating property division in a pre-nuptial agreement with your spouse may ensure that each spouse's best interests are effectively represented in a divorce. If you and your spouse agree to your own terms of property division, a judge only has to finalize the agreement for the property settlement to take effect.

You may also consider alternative methods to a court-litigated divorce, such as mediation and collaborative divorce. Mediation allows couples to solve disputes and conduct negotiations outside of a court with the help of a third-party mediator who facilitates open communication. Attorney guidance is optional, but not required. Similarly, a collaborative divorce is negotiated outside of court, but usually with lawyer supervision. These alternative methods of divorce allow couples to negotiate property division while reducing the expenses of litigation.

Board-Certified Family Law Specialist with 25 Years of Experience

Your Orange County divorce lawyer needs to be experienced in interpreting and arguing case law concerning property division. As a certified family law attorney, I have experience in handling a wide range of contested property matters. If you are looking for an experienced divorce attorney in Orange County who will provide strategic legal counsel and will fight on your behalf whenever necessary to protect your property and assets, you have come to the right place.

Schedule a free consultation with Kevin B. Gibbs, APLC today!