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Marital vs. separate property: What you should know

Whether you have recently filed for divorce or are simply considering terminating your marriage, there are a host of things to consider. One of the most difficult topics to negotiate may be that of property division. It can be difficult and emotional to separate property that you have accumulated throughout your marriage. Understanding the difference between marital and separate property may help to ensure you get everything you are entitled to in the divorce settlement.

California is a community property state, which means all marital property is divided equally in half between spouses. While the judge presiding over the case may take into consideration certain factors involved in the divorce, everything is generally split 50/50. Marital property is considered everything that has been amassed during the time of the marriage. This includes property, vehicles, furniture, possessions and assets, such as stocks, 401k plans, term life insurance policies and retirement funds.

Not all property is considered marital, however. Separate property are items and/or assets that were owned by someone prior to the marriage. This includes property and assets that remain in the sole possession of the owner. Also, any inheritance, gifts given by a third-party or personal compensation will stay with the original owner as well. If the funds or property become mixed with the marital property, it may be considered community property and then eligible for division in the divorce. For example, if heritance money, which is considered separate, is deposited into a joint bank account shared by the spouse, the money may become community property.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.  

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