Property Division

Property Division

California is a community property state.  This means that, with the exception of certain circumstances, all property (assets or debts) acquired by a married couple during their marriage in California is community property and must be equally divided at the divorce.

In most cases, before a divorce is finalized, the parties must exchange Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure.  The forms required for the Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure can be found here, here, and here.

In the Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure, you must disclose every asset and debt that you have, regardless of whether or not they are community property.  The following are examples of some of the most common assets and debts:

  1. Real Estate;
  2. Household furniture, furnishings, and appliances;
  3. Jewelry, antiques, art, coin collections;
  4. Vehicles, boats, trailers, planes;
  5. Bank accounts (including, checking accounts, savings accounts, credit unions, and any other deposit accounts);
  6. Cash;
  7. Tax refunds;
  8. Life insurance;
  9. Stocks, bonds, secured notes, mutual funds;
  10. Retirement and pensions (for example, CalSTRS, STRS, PERS, 403(b)’s, 401(k)’s ;
  11. Profit-sharing, annuities, IRAS, deferred compensation;
  12. Accounts receivables and unsecured notes;
  13. Partnerships and other business interests;
  14. Any other assets (for example, these could include accrued vacation leave, Persian rugs, trademarks, patents, bitcoins, airline miles, etc.);
  15. Student loans;
  16. Taxes owed (to Federal or State);
  17. Support arrearages (this includes child support and spousal support/alimony);
  18. Loans – unsecured;
  19. Credit cards; and
  20. Any other debts (for example, debt/loans to parents or third parties, money borrowed from 401(k) loans, debt owed to collections, outstanding judgments, liens on property, etc.).

Once you have served your Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure on the other party, you must accurately complete and file the Declaration re Service of Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure with the Court.

It is absolutely crucial that you disclose all of your assets and debts to the other party.  Failure to disclose your assets and debts could result in sanctions and/or the asset being awarded to the other party.  (You may remember the California case where the wife failed to disclose that she had the winning lottery ticket to her husband during their divorce – and the judge awarded 100% of the lottery winnings to the husband.)

It is also very important that you accurately characterize the asset (for example, is it community property or separate property).  Failure to accurately characterize an asset could inadvertently give the other party a share of your assets that they were not entitled to.   Before completing your Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure, it is best to contact a family law/divorce attorney to help you finalize the documents.

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