When you divorce in California, all of your marital assets are divided equally between you and your spouse. The statute of community property applies to all assets acquired during the course of the marriage. Assets such as property owned before marriage, inheritance and gifts may be considered separate assets and not subject to division.
If you have assets which are your separate property and you want to protect them from being divided upon your divorce, here are some steps you can take:
Keep the record straight
Assets you acquired before you married, such as a home, works of art, musical instruments, antiques or other items of value, should be insured and their value catalogued. Keep a spreadsheet that has all of your individually held assets listed as such. It is helpful to keep original receipts and insurance information which have a time and date stamp showing when you acquired the object of worth. If you own items of great value and you are concerned your spouse might attempt to destroy or sell them, it might be a good idea to remove them to a safe place until the matter is settled.
Show the intent to keep separate
It is important to know that separate assets can become marital assets by a process called co-mingling. If, for example you inherit money during the time you are married, and you deposit the inheritance into a joint account, use it to purchase a vacation home or otherwise jointly enjoyed asset, it is no longer separate and may be subject to division upon your divorce. If you want to keep your assets separate, show your intent to do so by keeping them in separate accounts which are never shared and are only in your name.
Premarital or postmarital agreement
If you have a pre- or postmarital agreement which specifies what items of value you intend to keep separate, it may or may not hold up in court. Ask an experienced divorce attorney to look it over so you have a sense of where the strengths and weaknesses in your case might be. The best investment you can make in your financial future is in seeking great legal advice now.