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The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan

What Divorced Women Should Know: How Your Assets Are Divided

Paul Nathan
San Francisco Divorce & Custody Lawyer Representing Women Exclusively

You have decided to leave your spouse, and the thought of leaving your assets behind terrifies you. After all, you’ve worked hard over the years to provide for your family. Whether you worked outside of the home and earned a salary, or you stayed home with the kids while your spouse made money, you contributed enormously to your family and deserve to be taken care of.

Stay-at-home moms have put their careers on hold to take care of their families, and don’t have any income of their own right now. Naturally, they are often worried they will be left with nothing. If you were the breadwinner or contributed to the finances equally, you probably want to make sure you get your fair share.

The State of California takes a look at many variables when deciding who gets what.

Separate Property

The issue of marital and separate property comes into play when dividing assets. Generally speaking, your spouse typically has no rights to your separate property. Separate property usually includes property that was owned before you became married, any inheritance received either before or after the marriage, a gift received from a third party, and payment received in the pain and suffering portion of a personal injury claim.

For instance, if you purchased a home, car, vacation property, or made other investments before you were married, your spouse likely won’t have any claims to those assets. An exception, however, is if you made payments on these assets using a joint bank account. Then your ex may state that part of those assets are his since he helped to pay for some of them.

Additionally, any debts you incurred before you were married or after you were separated are also considered separate property. Student loans are also separate property. Debts incurred before you were married should not hinder you after the divorce; only the spouse who had them prior to the marriage should be held responsible.

Marital Property

California is a community property state, which means that all marital property is divided right down the middle between divorcing spouses, unless you both agree to an unequal division. Typically, marital property refers to items and investments that were purchased while the marriage took place, such as pension plans, deferred compensation, stock options, boats, cars, annuities, retirement plans, real estate, and tax refunds.

If you cannot come to an agreement, a judge is going to decide for you, so it's in your best interest to try and work something out between yourselves with the help of a divorce attorney. Attempting to divide your assets without legal help will likely end up with you missing out on items and money that you are entitled to.

This is not just household property like who gets the huge flat-screen TV and who gets the leather couch—this includes retirement benefits, a business owned by one or both of you, stock options, etc.

Even if you were a stay-at-home mom for the entire marriage, your contribution is recognized as essential to the success of the household. For that reason, you should be entitled to half of everything acquired during the marriage, even though you didn't pay for it and it may not even be in your name.

Debts incurred during the marriage are included in the division of property. Student loans are the only exception to this. If your spouse agrees to pay a community debt, but he fails to do so, you will probably still have to pay the creditor. However, that gives you a legal right to seek reimbursement from your former husband.

Protect Yourself By Hiring an Experienced Attorney

You deserve to come out on top when going through a divorce. The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan may be able to help you do that. We represent only women because we know what difficult times they often have in divorces.

We will work hard to ensure that you are fairly treated and that your best interests are always in the forefront. Contact us today to learn how we may be able to help you.