Division of Assets and Debts in Orange County Divorce – All You Need to Know

By Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP | Apr 22, 2024

If you are thinking about separation, you may have questions surrounding the division of assets and debts in Orange County divorces. Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, explains all that you need to know about how marital and non-marital assets and debts are divided in California courts. As you look towards protecting your own assets in a divorce, it is essential to understand the implications within your jurisdictions.

What Does Community Property State Mean?

California is a community property state which means that the assets and debts acquired within a marriage are typically viewed as community property between spouses and are subject to equal division in divorce. There are exceptions to this rule when a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement specifically outlines how assets and debts will be divided in the event of divorce. These legal agreements will be upheld regardless of the community property rule.

While divorce courts in California follow the default rule of equal division, the court may also consider various factors that can influence the separation of assets and debts in an effort to make it more equitable. These factors include each spouse’s earning capacity, financial needs, contributions to the marriage, and any agreements determined between the spouses.

What If I Have Separate Property?

In the state of California, if you have what is called ‘separate property,’ this means that you personally have assets and/or debts on your own, separate from your spouse, that you acquired before your marriage or after the date of your separation. These separate property items are generally not subject to division in a divorce. Common examples of separate property include inheritances and gifts.

Both spouses are required to provide a full account of their financial situations during divorce proceedings. This includes the unveiling of all debts, assets, income, expenses, and other relevant financial information. Failing to disclose all financial information honestly can result in serious legal consequences and impact the division of property during the divorce. It is essential to have a clear and full financial disclosure available during divorce proceedings.

Steps to Dividing Property

There are several steps needed to accurately divide property in a divorce. This can be a complex and lengthy process dependent on the specific details of each marriage’s financial landscape. First, spouses are required to gather documentation outlining their financial information, including all assets, debts, income, and expenses. Then, assets will be evaluated to determine what will be considered marital or community property, which will be separated.

The next step includes valuing marital assets such as vehicles, real estate, investments, retirement accounts, and personal property. This often requires professional appraisals or valuations over certain assets. All debts will be similarly reviewed. After a full estimation of the value of the property is determined, the property will be officially divided between the spouses. If a spouse does not uphold their responsibilities in the division, legal action can be pursued.

Can I Contest the Division of Assets in a California Divorce?

If you are unhappy with the division of assets within your divorce in California, you can contest it under certain circumstances. To contest, you need to prove that there was a legal error or unfair outcome in the division process. This looks like proving the court misapplied the community property laws, failed to review relevant factors, made decisions that were significantly inequitable or unfair, and more.

If you believe that your spouse was dishonest about their assets, you can report this fraudulent behavior and work to prove how they manipulated the asset division process. In the event that a spouse fails to disclose all of their assets, you may also have grounds to contest the division of assets. If you are concerned with your divorce proceeding in California, speak with a local attorney today.


Q: How Does California Split Assets in Divorce?

A: California splits assets in a divorce by following a 50/50 law which means that all assets that were acquired within the time of the marriage are split equally between both spouses. There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule. Generally, assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered community property and divided equally upon divorce. Property or assets acquired by one spouse before the marriage are considered separate property and not divided in divorce.

Q: How Is Debt Divided in Divorce in California?

A: How debt is divided in divorce in California is generally according to the California Family Code, which states that all debts and assets acquired during the time of the marriage will be equally divided, but there are exceptions. If a couple has a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that outlines a specific division of community property, including debts, this can overrule the California Family Code.

Q: What Assets Are Protected in Divorce in California?

A: The assets that are protected in a divorce in California are the assets that are considered separate property. This can include assets acquired before marriage, certain inheritance and gifts, certain retirement accounts, certain personal injury awards, business interests owned by one spouse, and any assets covered in prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. If you have further concerns about what assets are protected in your divorce, speak with a trusted attorney to learn more.

Q: Am I Responsible for My Spouse’s Debt in California?

A: You are not generally automatically responsible for your spouse’s debt in California if the debt is separate, but there are certain circumstances in which you may be liable for your spouse’s debts. Debts incurred during the marriage are often considered community debts, regardless of the name associated with the debt. Both spouses are legally responsible for any jointly held debts. There are several other scenarios in which you may be held responsible for your spouse’s debt.

Speak With an Experienced Orange County, California Divorce Lawyer Today

If you are going through a divorce, reach out to an experienced divorce lawyer in Orange County, California, at Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP. Our team has worked in family law for decades, making us the name you can trust and rely on when preparing for legal action. We understand how personal and sensitive divorce claims can be, and in light of this, you can anticipate personalized and compassionate service and legal support when you come to our office.

Set up a consultation with our office and learn how we can support you at this time.

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