What You Should Avoid in a California Divorce Settlement

Getting a divorce settlement can be intimidating and scary without prior knowledge. Not knowing all the relevant information can cause you much stress in the long run. Here are seven mistakes to avoid when settling a California divorce settlement.

1. Thinking that your divorce settlement is finalized once you and your spouse agree

It is important to keep in mind that while you and your spouse or domestic partner may have already come to an informal agreement on how to best split community property and debts – property and debts accrued while legally married or in a legal domestic partnership – the separation does not occur until a judge signs off on it.

Related: How to Make a Divorce Settlement Agreement in California

2. Thinking that your divorce is finalized once the six-month waiting period is over

Similar to thinking that your divorce settlement is finalized once you and your spouse agree, it is important to know that although the state of California has a six-month waiting period (to ensure the couple does not change their mind after the divorce is finalized), your divorce case could take longer than six months. Again, similar to your settlement, your divorce is not finalized until it is approved in court.

Related: 6-Month Waiting Period for Divorce in California

3. Thinking that you have to go in front of the court to decide how to divide your property

While your divorce settlement is required to be finalized by the court, you and your spouse are not required to appear in front of a judge to decide property division. Oftentimes, couples are able to come to an agreement on their own, and have the judge sign off on it after the agreement is completed.

Related: How to Divide Property in a California Divorce

4. Thinking that property division has to be physical

When deciding how to divide property, both parties should keep in mind that the division does not need to literally split property in half. For example, both parties do not need to split the funds in every bank account they own together. Instead, if there are two accounts that have similar amounts of funds in each, both parties could each keep one account.

Additionally, adding other assets or factoring in debt can also be considered when dividing property. For example, if one party gets a larger bank account, the other party can get the smaller bank account in addition to something else that adds up to the same amount as the larger bank account.

5. Not identifying what’s yours

The state of California recognizes two types of property: community property and separate property. Community property refers to property and debts accrued while legally married or in a legal domestic partnership.

Related: Community Property Laws in California

Separate property refers to anything an individual spouse owned before entering a marriage or legal domestic partnership. In a divorce or separation, separate property belongs only to the individual. Therefore, identifying what’s yours as separate property is important to ensuring you keep all of your individual property. Be sure to look at the source of the money used to buy an item to determine if it is considered separate property.

6. Not consulting a lawyer

In some complicated cases of property division, such as if one party has a pension or retirement benefit from a job held before and during marriage (a case of separate and community property), it is best to contact a lawyer to help with the division. A lawyer can help with these complicated divisions and reduce confusion and headache in the future.

7. Not communicating with your spouse

Communicating with your spouse or partner while discussing your settlement, whether it be about property division, spousal or partner support or child support, is crucial to ensuring that your settlement goes smoothly. Being transparent about what both parties want and expect from each other after the separation is important in ensuring that both partners are on the same page about what the settlement is requiring.

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If you have any more questions about mistakes to avoid in a California divorce settlement, contact us. We’ll get you in touch with the most qualified attorney for your unique legal situation. Get your free consultation with one of our Divorce Attorneys in California today!