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How do we go about splitting up our community property?

When you get married, you typically commingle your assets with your spouse. Therefore, determining who really owns what becomes blurry. Although this is not an issue in a happy marriage where both spouses are okay with sharing their resources, it can become a major problem following a divorce filing.

Items that you have accumulated with your spouse during the course of a marriage are considered marital property, or in California, community property. Dividing this property can be emotionally and financially overwhelming, especially if they are high-value assets. However, understanding your state's laws on community property can help with navigating this process.

Community Property

The state of California is one of a few states that recognize the concept of community property. Under this concept, any property that the couple has acquired in the course of their marriage is split equally. However, the two spouses might come to their own agreement about how to divide the assets based on what they deem to be appropriate.

Other states do not recognize this legal theory. Instead, these other states -- known as equitable distribution states -- allow a judge to listen to both sides' arguments and to apply formulas to determine how to divide property. In addition to splitting assets, the couple may also need to divide liabilities, such as credit card balances, outstanding bills for products purchased and mortgages.

Types of Assets

Before embarking on the process of determining how to divide assets, making a list of all assets owned can be helpful. You can divide this list into sections with their own subheadings. For instance, one subheading can feature a list of all of your real property, including rental properties, vacation homes and even undeveloped land. Another part of your comprehensive list can detail all of your personal property, ranging from crystal, china and antiques to campers, boats and motor vehicles. This will likely be your most extensive list.

You can also include a section on financial assets, such as savings and checking accounts, educational accounts and retirement accounts. Other important financial assets to gather information about include trusts, mutual funds, stocks and bonds. Finally, you need to ensure that you account for all of your business assets, such as a professional practice or a partnership in California. An attorney can help you to fight for your fair share of community property at the negotiation table with your soon-to-be-ex during a divorce proceeding in the Golden State.

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