Property division is the process in divorce where the marital property is divided. Depending on one’s state, there are two types of property division procedures: community property and equitable (fair) distribution.
In California, we are a community property state. This means we divide marital property similar to Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. In our state, and those other states, the divorce judge attempts to split all the marital property down the middle. In other words, the marital estate is scene as community property, owned equally by both spouses, so it should be divided evenly.
Equitable distribution states, on the other hand, deal with the marital estate division much differently. Rather than treating all the property as equal, divorce judges seek a fair distribution. That judge seeks to split the marital estate based on what is fair and equitable to the parties involved.
The marital estate
Regardless of the state though, before deciding who gets what, the divorce judge will need to make a full accounting of the marital estate. Not all property that both spouses own is considered part of the marital estate. All the income earned throughout a marriage and all the stuff acquired during the marriage is part of the marital estate. Even gifts and inheritances that are given to the couple count. However, those gifts and inheritances given to one of the spouses, individually, do not count. In addition, everything one had prior to the marriage also does not count. Though, depending on how those assets and monies are used during the marriage, those non-marital assets could become part of the marital estate.
Where the most litigation occurs
Other than issues relating to children, the property division process is where most litigation occurs. This is because spouses disagree on what should be included, how items are valued and who should get what. After all, some items may have different values to the spouses. For example, inherited furniture may not be worth a lot of money, but it may have a huge sentimental value to one spouse. If one spouse is attempting to punish the other spouse, they may argue that the furniture is more valuable, fight to get the it themselves or use it as leverage to get more of the Manhattan Beach, California, estate.