The old adage about marriage, “what’s mine is yours,” applies in a very real sense in places like California. This state is among the minority that recognizes community property, which includes any items, income, assets, and debts acquired while two parties were married (gifts and inheritances, however, are not considered community property).
In places like California, community property is considered to be evenly owned among both parties in a marriage: A savings account? Equally shared no matter who contributed more. A home and everything in it? Equally shared as long as the property was purchased during marriage.
The same principles apply for debt as they do assets and property. As long as the debt was incurred while spouses were married and before a legal separation, responsibility for the debt is shared 50/50 between them regardless of who actually racked it up.
If a spouse is in financial trouble before marriage, the debt they had before their wedding day is usually considered separate property for which they are solely responsible. Any interests, fees, and additional debt that occur on top of that debt during marriage, however, can be considered community property subject to division.
Is It Really That Simple?
In a sense, yes, it really is that simple – at least in the vast majority of cases – but like most things involving the law, there’s some nuance that should be explained here.
It won’t be the court’s goal to evenly split each asset and debt exactly down the middle. Instead, the goal is to ensure that the overall division of property is equal. Parties in a divorce could be assigned different sets of property and debts as long as the net value they walk away with is as equal as possible.
An Exception to Equal Division
There’s an important exception to the equal division of debt in a California divorce: If the community debts exceed the value of community assets, then the interests of creditors are taken into account. The court may do this by providing a division of debt that burdens more debt on the divorcing spouse who is more financially equipped to afford it.
Get Experienced Legal Assistance on Your Side!
While the court is inclined to ensure that community property in a divorce is evenly distributed, it takes experienced legal counsel to protect your interests in what’s yours. You also need an attorney to represent you so that you can protect yourself against assuming more than your share of debt that occurred during your marriage.