Coming to terms that you want to divorce your spouse can be a very hard and agonizing decision. Divorce is a serious matter that requires a lot of thought and planning up front in order for you to fully understand and consider all of the consequences that come from a divorce. Because California is a community property state, there are additional considerations that need to be taken into account because it could severely impact how your divorce is settled. If you are contemplating getting a divorce, you should consider taking the following steps before filing:
A divorce checklist.
1) Understand the concept of community property – Since California is a community property state, all of your assets will be divided under this theory. A couple’s community property is all property that was bought or acquired during the marriage, including debts. Property acquired as a gift or inheritance does not count as community property. You can usually tell if the property will be considered community property by the source of the money that was used to buy it. Under the community property theory, each spouse owns one-half of the community property and each is responsible for one-half of the community debt. For example, the money you earn each paycheck is considered community property. If you used this money to buy something for yourself, it may still count as community property.
2) Take an inventory of all of your assets and debts – it is important to make two lists of your assets – one for your community property assets and another for your separate property assets. If your spouse is normally the one that handles all of the financial matters, it is extremely important to bring yourself up to speed and gather as many documents as possible related to these assets. By putting together this inventory list you may have more community property then your originally thought. If your spouse has a pension plan and any part of the funds in the account were earned during the marriage, you may have a right to part of the money in the pension. It is also important to list all of the outstanding debts that you and your spouse owe to understand the extent of the debts that need to be repaid, which will impact the settlement you receive.
3) Realize that anything you do may be connected to your children – Custody, child support, and visitation are hot topics in divorce and can have a huge impact on the outcome of any divorce involving children. If you are considering a divorce, understand that the time before and during the divorce is crucial to your case. You and your spouse’s conduct can either help or hurt the case you are trying to build. For example, if you move out of the marital home it can affect the chances that you receive a custody determination in your favor.
4) Consult an experienced attorney – once you gather as much information as possible and you feel comfortable with the decision to seek a divorce, you should seek the advice and counsel of an experienced attorney like Jane Wesley Brooks, CFLS, to understand about more complex issues like spousal and child support.
Contact JWB Family Law for a consultation and legal advice if you plan to file for divorce in San Diego.