California follows community property laws when it comes to the division of marital assets during a divorce. Most states follow the principles of equitable distribution, but some states have community property laws that require judges to consider those standards when dividing property in a divorce. Because these property division laws can be confusing, it is important to understand how they apply to a particular couple before they go through divorce proceedings.
While complex property division is not the norm in most divorces, certain assets can require more careful handling than others. In a community property state, most of the property a married couple owns is considered marital property if it was acquired during the marriage. This means that a couple may have to divide businesses, retirement accounts and other assets that are difficult to value and divide fairly.
One way to prevent the problems that can be associated with a community property state's division of marital assets is to have a strong prenuptial agreement. While no prenup can be considered "airtight," having one in place prior to marriage can be helpful in cases in which there are large sums of money or complicated assets involved. For example, a prenuptial agreement can outline the couple's intentions with regard to their retirement plans and other assets that are difficult to divide easily.
One of the best ways to deal with questions about community property and other issues related to a divorce is to seek the advice of an attorney with experience in these matters. An experienced family law attorney can also provide guidance to a client regarding other applicable matters such as spousal support.