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Can You Divorce Without Splitting Assets California

Can You Divorce Without Splitting Assets California?

Divorce is a complex legal process, often followed by emotional distress and financial concerns. Most of our clients wonder whether you can divorce without splitting assets California.

If you have the same dilemma, we are here for you. We gathered all the rules for property division in one place and explained more simply for better understanding. It is important to have realistic expectations about property division and have the best chance to end up with the divorce outcome you desire.

Let’s find out whether there is a way to divorce without splitting assets.

Understanding Community Property Laws in California

Asset division is one of the most important aspects of divorce. According to California law, a property is considered everything that has value and can be bought or sold. That includes physical objects, debt, and investments, such as:

  • House
  • Vehicles
  • Furniture
  • Art
  • Bank accounts
  • Pensions and retirement benefits
  • Stocks, patents, and business interests
Understanding Community Property Laws in California
Source: / Photo Contributor: Vitalii Vodolazskyi

Community vs Separate Property in Divorce

In California, an asset can fall into one of two categories: community property or separate property

Community property

Community property is everything you purchased together with your spouse during your marriage. In the legal world, we also like to call it marital property.

There is also quasi-community property that falls under community property. It is considered the property that you get while you are married but living outside of California. The judges will treat it the same as community property and divide it between you and your spouse equally.

Separate property

Your assets would be categorized as separate property during the divorce if you owned them before marriage. Separate property is everything you owned, inherited, or received as a gift before marriage. Lastly, separate property includes every profit or rental income you received from your separate property. Another commonly used term for separate property is individual property.

One tricky situation is property acquired after the separation. Property owned or owed after the separation is also considered separate property. Although it might sound straightforward, proving your separation date is sometimes not as clear. As one of the best California divorce lawyers, we can assist you with that matter.

So you have a general picture, the most common dates spouses start to count as separated are:

  • The day one spouse expresses verbally or proves with actions that he or she wants a divorce
  • The day the spouses begin to live in separate houses or reside in the same home but no longer “living as husband and wife.”

Your divorce paperwork will have to establish a date of separation in order to properly distribute community and separate property when the divorce is final.

Typical Property Division in Divorce

It is essential to distinguish the two property types because they are crucial factors in determining whether the property will be split between you and your spouse.

Community property belongs to both spouses equally unless otherwise stated in a formal agreement because California is a state that has adopted the community property division system rather than equitable distribution. In other words, you may get half of your entire community property, as will your partner, with some exceptions. This caveat is something a skilled attorney assesses. 

What happens to property owned before marriage in California? Separate property is solely owned by one spouse. Judges typically allow the owners of the separate property to keep them in full after the divorce.

The third option for property division is to agree with your spouse and divide the property in a manner you think is fair. You must give your agreement to the judge, which must be approved and ordered by the court.

Can you divorce without splitting assets in California?

One of the most common questions from divorcing couples is, do you have to split assets in a divorce? According to divorce laws in California, the process of divorce splitting assets is inevitable.

If you don’t have a premarital or postnuptial agreement, the judge will divide the property according to the community property rules. These two types of agreements will help you feel secure and avoid financial uncertainty when ending your marriage and proceeding with divorce.

If you and your spouse have agreed to separate your property differently and therefore signed an agreement, the community property will be split in other ways rather than 50-50.

Examples of Assets Division During Marriage in California

To understand how the legal aspect of the division of assets in California works, we prepared some practical examples.

Mortgage and other debt types

If you have taken out a mortgage to buy a house before you married and the deed is in your name, this is a separate property asset. Things can get tricky when your new spouse pays this mortgage or is added to the deed.. If you purchased the home and obtained the mortgage after you got married, this is community property. 

The last scenario is for debts that incur after you separate. Even if you are not legally divorced in California, every debt incurred after the separation on an individual account is considered a separate property debt of the party who incurred the debt.

Mortgage and other debt types
Source: / Photo Contributor: Andrey_Popov

House and Other Property Types

A couple’s  living situation is important for all divorcing couples, often leading to wondering who gets the house.

There are several factors that determine who gets the house in a divorce in California, of which the most important are:

  • Whether the house was bought or inherited: If you buy the house while you are married, it should be divided equally. Again, there may be some exceptions here depending on where the down payment comes from. If the house was inherited or received as a gift, it belongs solely to one spouse.
  • Whether both spouses have contributed to making improvements or paying off the mortgage,
  • Whether one spouse is willing to sell their part or pay their partner to receive their share of the property.

Premarital and postnuptial agreements

If you want financial protection in case of a divorce, you should talk with your spouse about signing a premarital or postnuptial agreement. These act as asset protection, and are legal tools used to determine how your property will be divided after divorce.

If you have such an agreement in place, it may override the California community property rules, and you will have more freedom to choose who gets what in case of divorce. 

For the division of assets during premarital or postnuptial agreements, you need to have:

  • A legally binding written agreement
  • Ensure both parties sign the agreement voluntarily before a Notary Public.
  • The agreement contains full and fair asset disclosure
  • A skilled attorney is necessary if you want to ensure this is an enforceable legal document.

Maintaining your separate property

If you are still looking how you can divorce without splitting assets in California, another thing you can do is ensure your separate property stays separate. Besides signing a prenuptial agreement, you must take all measures for your separate property to maintain its status.

If you have a family business, one of the best ways to ensure it stays a separate property is to have all shares only in your name. You should also review the business operating documents and check whether it forbids transferring shares to people who are not blood relatives.

Another way to maintain the status of your separate property is to avoid commingling assets. In laic words– avoid making investments, improvements, or maintaining the property with money from a joint account with your spouse or community income.

Lastly, you should keep all documents and records so you can prove the status of your property to the judge. Tracing is very important and critical if issues like this go to trial.

Alternatives to Traditional Asset Division in Divorce

There are two alternatives to having a judge divide your assets the traditional way in California.

Mediation and negotiation to preserve separate assets

Mediation is one approach many divorcing couples in California choose. With mediation, you can solve different issues about the outcomes of the divorce, one of which is property division.

In a nutshell, how mediation works is that you and your spouse hire a mediator to facilitate negotiations related to division of property. The mediator isn’t authorized to make the decisions or advocate for each party but will help you reach an agreement. 

Utilizing legal advice for strategic asset protection

Commonly, divorcing couples contact us because they seek legal advice for asset protection. We can guide you through the process of divorce and what to expect in regards to California Family Law and potentially protect you from losing an asset by offsetting it with another.

How long do you have to be married to get half of everything in California?

California family law hasn’t specified the exact period a couple should be legally married, so community property rules should apply. This means you can have a short marriage of just a few years and still be entitled to half of the community property.

Does my spouse have any right to my house if I owned it before marriage in California?

If you haven’t converted the house into community property, your spouse doesn’t have the right to your home. However, as there are rare exceptions, we would advise you to contact us so we can assess your individual situation.

Is it always 50-50 in divorce in California?

Most divorces in California end up in even a division of their marital property. However, there are specific factors that influence the property division, like the type of property, the existence of marital agreements, or how the property was originally acquired.


Navigating divorce in California is complex, especially when splitting assets. But with an expert legal team like us, you don’t have to worry figuring out this alone. Now that you know whether you can divorce without splitting assets in California, you can start your divorce with confidence and have better expectations on the process.

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