Divorce, for most people, is usually a highly-contentious affair. Spouses have a lot to deal with during the dissolution of a marriage, such as the emotional toll of breaking up and devising custody arrangements where children are involved.
But perhaps the most stressful bit when it comes to divorce is the division of the property acquired during the marriage. The laws that deal with the appropriation of marital property can be complex. It is not uncommon for a spouse to pass up on property they are legally entitled to simply because they didn’t know their rights.
This is why it is essential to involve a California divorce attorney during the splitting up of marital assets.
How Can a Divorce Attorney Help with the Division of Property and Debts?
1. Understand What Counts as Marital Property
An experienced California divorce lawyer can help you understand what counts as marital property. They can clarify some common misconceptions about the splitting up of assets during a divorce, and help you know what you are entitled to after the marriage ends.
For instance, many people don’t know that any property acquired during a marriage is regarded in law as marital property. Thus, they may not lay a claim to property that is registered in one spouse’s name, even if they do have a valid claim to it. A family law expert in California can help you tremendously in such a case.
The attorney can also help explain how property should be shared, depending on the state that you live in. Generally, there are two modes of sharing matrimonial property: equitable distribution and community property distribution.
Under equitable distribution, the property is divided according to each spouse’s contribution to the marriage. Community property, on the other hand, is split evenly between the spouses. California is a community property state, which means that you will share the property on a 50:50 basis with your spouse.
A family law attorney will also help you determine what falls under the separate property category, which means that it is excluded from division during divorce. Typically, this will be property that you brought into the marriage without any help from your spouse. Such assets include inheritance, gifts, the property you had acquired before marriage, and any compensation you get from a personal injury suit.
But the law is not as clear cut on matters to do with separate property as you would think. For instance, a spouse may inherit land from their parents, then build a house on it using the other spouse’s money. Alternatively, a spouse may decide to register a gift as joint property with the other spouse. Under such unclear circumstances, a California divorce lawyer can offer invaluable insight and assistance in helping you split your assets in a legally enforceable manner.
2. Understand Debt Division
A divorce lawyer can also help you better understand debt division laws. Like sharing property, sharing debt can quickly become a complicated and convoluted affair. The rules dictating how financial liabilities are to be shared upon the end of a marriage are complex, which is why a good attorney is such an invaluable asset.
States in the US also adopt either a communal or equitable approach to debt allocation. However, in most cases, if one spouse raked up a lot of debt due to financial irresponsibility, they will bear the burden alone. This applies, for instance, where one is addicted to gambling or has an expensive drinking problem.
Generally, however, debts incurred for household expenditure will be shared evenly between the spouses. In special circumstances, even where one spouse incurred a liability in their name alone, but the money was used to support the marriage, the debt will be split equally between both parties. For instance, a student loan that one spouse acquired to help advance a career may be shared between both parties.
Unless you are an expert in family law, debt division can be incredibly confusing. Seek the guidance of an experienced attorney to safeguard your financial interests as you navigate the murky waters of debt division.
3. Understand Tax Obligations and Retirement Funds
Your tax obligations will also likely change after divorce. Whether you will have to pay more or less to the state after your split depends entirely on the unique circumstances of your case. Some factors that may affect your tax obligations after divorce include the year of the divorce and the assets you own after separation. Tax is a complex area of law, and you will do well to have a lawyer by your side as you figure out what your obligations are.
An attorney will also help you understand how divorce affects either spouse’s retirement funds. You may think that you have no claim to a working spouse’s IRA, even if you do. This is especially true if you sacrificed a career so your partner could advance theirs, or so you could be a stay-at-home parent. Be sure to consult a lawyer so you can know the circumstances under which you have a valid claim to your ex’s retirement fund.
The importance of a divorce attorney in the division of marital property cannot be overstated. Their expertise in this area of law can come in handy, both in protecting the wealth you have worked so hard to build and enlightening you as to your rights in divorce. The attorney will also help clarify any questions and concerns you may have about the splitting of assets and debts.
The lawyer will provide you with objective advice at a time when everything is blurry due to the turmoil that accompanies divorce. If you are too embittered to engage reasonably with your spouse, the attorney can act on your behalf, thus making the process much less painful. They can also help you make rational decisions instead of emotional ones during this difficult time.
On the whole, a divorce attorney is a vital ally when it comes to sharing marital property. Do not hesitate to contact a reputable and experienced lawyer to help you with this complex task.