Determining how to divide your family’s assets and debts may be one of the most challenging parts of your divorce. You and your spouse may have some high-value assets to divide, such as real estate, retirement accounts and investments. However, you may also have debts, like loans and credit card balances.

There can be a lot at stake when dividing marital property. Property division can significantly affect your post-divorce lifestyle. Because of this, it is important to make sure you receive a fair outcome.

Does everything get divided?

Most of the property you or your spouse acquired during your marriage is community property. All community property must be divided between you and your spouse during your divorce.  Property division must be fair, but it does not necessarily need to be equal.

However, it is also important to keep in mind that not all property is subject to division in divorce. In general, most property you acquired before your marriage is separate property. Gifts or inheritances that only you received will also count as separate property, even if you received them during your marriage. You normally will not need to divide separate property in divorce and the property will normally stay with you.

Who chooses the way spouses divide property?

Often, people reach the best outcomes when they can work together to find a mutually agreeable division of assets and debts. However, when spouses are not able to work together or cannot reach an agreement, a court may need to decide for them.

When making this decision, a court can consider any relevant factor. Some common factors a court may consider, include:

  • The types of community and separate property
  • The extent of community and separate property
  • The duration of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s economic circumstances

The division of community property can be complicated. However, by having at least a basic understanding of the process, you may be able to start thinking about what a fair division might look like for your situation.