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

If you are in the middle of a divorce or preparing to file for divorce, you probably have questions about how your assets and property will be divided. Every state sets its own laws and guidelines on how marital property is divided. The length of time a couple was married has implications for areas like spousal support and alimony. Many wonder how long you have to be married in California to get half of everything.

Does the Length of My Marriage Affect the Property Division?

It may make intuitive sense that a couple that wasn’t married very long might play by different rules than a couple that was married for decades. In practice, California’s divorce laws equally apply to couples who are married any length of time, meaning even short marriages will likely require the equal and fair division of assets through the courts. One of the biggest factors that may apply to a short marriage is the amount of marital property that has to be divided.

Community Property vs. Separate Property

If you were not married very long, you probably have few assets and property that could be considered community property, any assets or debt acquired during the course of a marriage, by the state. There is no set minimum period of time that you have to be married before these laws apply.

Assets include personal property and real property like land and buildings. With few exceptions, the following types of community property may be divided during the divorce process.

  • Your home
  • Mortgage debt
  • Credit card debt
  • Loans
  • Bank accounts
  • Investments

Early on in the divorce process, both parties will begin disclosing financial records and other documents that detail how much assets and debt they own. Property division is one of the most important parts of the divorce process, and your attorney will work to make sure that you only give up what you are required to by law.

With a few exceptions, anything purchased during your marriage will be considered community property by the courts. Some forms may come as a surprise. Even if you have a retirement plan or pension plan in your name, any assets accrued during the marriage through that plan may be considered community property.

If you have questions about what specifically qualifies as community property, a Huntington Beach property division attorney can provide legal counsel in this area.

When Can I Keep My Property?

Separate property is generally considered assets that are bought after separation and before marriage. This means that the property belongs solely to the spouse who purchased it. These claims are commonly disputed. Your family law attorney will help you prove what should or should not be divided.

Separate property also includes gifts that you received and anything that you inherited. Anything you bought with your inheritance or with money you had before you were married would be considered separate property as well.

For example, if you owned a car before you married, sold it while you were married, and then used the money to buy a boat, the boat would likely be considered separate property because you are effectively transferring assets you acquired before marriage.

If you and your spouse signed a postnuptial or prenuptial agreement, the agreement can override that law as long as the document was drafted by an attorney and follows state laws.

The day of your separation is an important date that you should document. This could be the date that you told your spouse that you want to divorce. Anything you buy after that point would be considered separate property. Debts are handled similarly. If you rack up debt after a separation, you alone will own that debt.


Q: Is Everything Split 50-50 in a Divorce in California?

A: In a divorce in California, the courts will divide everything in a fair and equitable manner. As far as community property goes, that effectively means everything is split 50-50. Of course, a home cannot be split in half. Once all debts and assets have been accounted for, each party will be awarded an amount very close to half of the value of those assets and debts.

Q: What Is the 10-Year Rule in California for Marriage?

A: The 10-year rule in California for marriage is used to determine how long someone pays alimony. When a couple is married for less than 10 years, the judge may award alimony for half the length of the marriage. So, an eight-year marriage may lead to four years of alimony. Marriages that lasted more than a decade may have alimony ordered for longer periods. This is standard practice, although individual cases may vary.

Q: What Is My Wife Entitled to in a Divorce in California?

A: Your wife is entitled to a fair and equitable division of assets and debts acquired during your marriage. Your wife has no claim to the property you bought before you married and any assets you acquired during the separation period. As for the specifics of what is divided, both parties can agree on who gets what. If both parties cannot decide, the courts will divide the estate along state guidelines.

Q: Does a Husband Have to Support His Wife During Separation in California?

A: In California, a husband can choose to support his wife during the separation period. There is no automatic spousal support process for separated couples. Your wife will have the option of going to court and asking that a judge order spousal support. In cases where the wife cannot support herself, the judge may order the husband to support his wife during separation.

Schedule Your Property Division Consultation Today

Whether you have been married for several months or several years, California’s community property laws will still apply. Any assets or debts acquired during your marriage will be divided in a fair and equitable manner. As you begin the process, the Law Offices of Lisa R. McCall, APC, are here to help. We have helped many clients navigate the often complex family law system. To schedule your consultation, contact our office today.

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