California couples who divorce know they won’t be able to keep everything they once shared with their spouse after divorce. But as you begin the divorce process, you may wonder if you’ll at lest get to keep your favorite car.
Understanding the laws that guide property division in the Golden State can prepare you for your court date. This can begin with knowing the difference between what type of assets are subject to division and which ones are, without question, are 100% yours.
What is community property?
California law labels all the assets that married couples contribute or share as community property. Common examples of community property include:
- The income of each spouse
- Any retirement accounts opened or added to
- The family home or other real estate
- Any debts you’ve come across independently or together
Keep in mind that you or your spouse must have accumulated or acquired these assets during your marriage for them to fall under community property classification. Plus, since California is one of the few states that follow community property rules, all marital assets can be split 50/50 during a divorce. This means that if the car your hoping to keep was a purchase made during your marriage, then there is a 50% chance you’ll be able to claim it after your divorce.
What is separate property?
Even though savings you’ve collected through your own salary throughout marriage might not end up all in your name after you split, there are some categories of property that you don’t have to share. Assets you came into before your marriage, gifts you’ve received and inheritances that have come your way are all examples of separate property that isn’t subject to division. So, if your car was something you bought with money you inherited from a relative, then you may be able to drive it around for many years to come.
However, if you mix any separate property with community property, then a divorce court judge will likely view it as community property. For instance, say your car was something you bought before marriage with a loan. Then, after you tied the knot your spouse contributed to your car statements. Even if they only helped pay the bills for a few months, your car could still end up in your ex’s new garage after divorce.
To ensure you receive a settlement that is fair, you can work with an experienced divorce attorney.