Equitable distribution refers to how property and debts are divided between spouses during a divorce. California is an equitable property state which means that the marital property obtained in a marriage should be divided equally. Property acquired during a marriage by either spouse is considered marital property and will be divided equally unless the property is shown to be separate. Separate property is not subject to the equitable distribution laws. Any property attained before the marriage will remain in the possession of the respective spouse. However, equitable distribution law requires consideration of a variety of factors including financial and personal matters.
In general, these are the guidelines for what constitutes marital property:
- Marital property includes all earnings during marriage and everything acquired with those earnings. All debts incurred during marriage, unless the creditor was specifically looking to the separate property of one spouse for payment, are marital property debts.
- Non-marital property involves inheritances, personal injury awards for a specific spouse, and pensions vested prior to a marriage. Similarly, any property or businesses owned and purchased with a spouse’s separate funds before a marriage are considered separate property.
- Property can be part non-marital and part marital property if a spouse shows that the property was purchased with separate finances. Non-marital property mixed together with marital property generally becomes marital property.
It is more common and agreeable for spouses to divide marital assets on their own terns. If an agreement is not possible, a judge will settle the property dispute. The court may award physical divisions or award each spouse a percentage of the total value of the property. The following are a few factors that are considered by the court when dispensing marital property:
- the length of the marriage and the age and health of each party
- the earning power of each spouse
- the contributions of each spouse
- Direct of indirect contributions of one spouse to the career of the other.
- the contributions of each spouse, including as a homemaker, to the marital partnership and acquisition of assets
- if spousal support is awarded, the amount of the award
- The probable future financial circumstances of each spouse.
Each of these factors can greatly affect the distribution of marital property between spouses. For assistance with your marital property distributions, contact the California Family Law Attorney Group today.