Divorce Attorney in Sacramento, California
California is one of a handful of states that observe community property laws. In a most basic definition, community property means that any marriage or domestic union is a 50/50 proposition. While being in a marriage or domestic partnership relationship, everything acquired is considered to be equally shared, and that includes debts taken on.
Of course, the final outcome of a divorce or legal separation may not be exactly 50/50, but the starting point is that everything is shared equally. Coming into the equation is any agreement that you and your spouse/partner agree to. Factors weighing in on a division of assets and debt can include children and their custody/parenting arrangement, child or spousal support, and who gets to retain the principal residence.
In addition, bargaining can take place. For instance, there is a shared asset value of $400,000 in your primary residence (or more or less). Spouse or Partner A has an equal amount in a retirement account, so the two of you agree that one spouse gets the house while the other gets to retain his or her retirement account.
If you’re considering divorce or are already in the process in or around Sacramento, California, contact me at The Law Office of Richard M. Abdallah to protect your rights and achieve an equitable distribution of your community property. I also proudly serve clients throughout Placer County, San Joaquin County, Eldorado County, and Yolo County.
Grounds for Divorce in California
You don’t have to fault a spouse or domestic partner to seek a divorce in the Golden State. No-fault divorces are pretty standard when it comes to the dissolution of a relationship. The only requirements legally are that you or your spouse has lived in California for the past six months and in the county where you file for the past three months.
You can obtain a legal separation as soon as you move to California and then apply for a divorce as soon as you meet the residency requirements. It gets more complicated if you married as a same-sex couple in California but now live elsewhere. You will need to consult with an attorney if you fall into that category.
Contested vs. Non-Contested Divorces
A contested divorce means a family law judge will hear both sides of the argument—the two spouses or partners squaring off in court, to so speak—and then make a ruling. Since California is a community property state, if it comes down to a judge’s decision, the result will generally be a 50/50 division of assets and debts.
The California Family Code regarding Division of Property states: “Except upon the written agreement of the parties, or on oral stipulation of the parties in open court, or as otherwise provided in this division, in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, the court shall, either in its judgment of dissolution of the marriage, in its judgment of legal separation of the parties, or at a later time if it expressly reserves jurisdiction to make such a property division, divide the community estate of the parties equally.”
In this regard, it is important to understand the difference between community and separate property. Community property is anything acquired by either spouse or partner during the time of legal union, and this includes debts. Separate property is anything either spouse or partner held in his or her own name before the union was legally recognized, or that is acquired during marriage by inheritance or gift.
Separate, Community, and Commingled Assets
However, even this simple division can get tricky. If Spouse/Partner A owned rental property prior to marriage but then used joint funds to finance its upkeep or pay for its mortgage, then the property can be considered “commingled,” meaning the domestic partner or spouse may have a financial stake in the previously separate property.
Note that the California Code gives the parties to the dissolution of a marriage the right to a “written agreement” or to an “oral stipulation” as to how to divide assets. This gives the divorcing parties legal room to work out a settlement arrangement that fits both of their needs. If the court is forced to rule in a contested divorce, the 50/50 rule will take precedence. A better option is to present the court with your own agreement.
An uncontested divorce between the spouses or domestic partners is the safest route to making both parties happy—or at least more comfortable—with the outcome, though it can be hard to arrive at, especially if emotions and grudges color the proceedings. It is best to rely on professional help in working out a settlement agreement to curtail emotions and pave the way for a joint solution.
Divorce is rarely a pleasant experience. It can entail demands and concessions that both sides are reluctant to meet. Therefore, it is essential to have the guidance and advice of an experienced family law attorney to help you navigate the process.
Divorce Attorney in Sacramento, California
If you are in or around the Sacramento area of California, reach out to me at The Law Office of Richard M. Abdallah with all your divorce/settlement agreement concerns. If the divorce ends up in a courtroom, I will also represent you and your interests to the fullest extent. When it comes to divorce, don’t try to go it alone. Seek experienced legal representation and guidance.