As people live longer, healthier lives, more older adults see the benefits of divorcing in their golden years. While divorce can allow a person to enjoy new freedoms, doing so after being married for so long can present unique challenges. One of the biggest hurdles in a gray divorce is property division, as each party’s separate properties become more entangled the longer they are married.
Property division in California
Unlike other states that practice equitable distribution, California is a community property state. This means both spouses own whatever assets or properties they acquire during the marriage. In case of divorce, the court will divide community property between the two parties equally while allowing them to keep their separate property.
When a divorce involves high-value assets, determining what qualifies as community property and what does not can lead to complicated disputes.
Unique complications of gray divorce
In most marriages, each spouse brings their own money to the table when buying a home or paying for essentials. This makes budgeting easier and lets the couple focus on their family’s needs.
However, mixing assets or commingling can complicate property division. It may turn what was originally separate property into community property.
A classic example of commingling is when one spouse owns a house prior to marriage but uses the couple’s joint account to pay for its repairs, expansion or mortgage. The house could then be thought of as community property since the other spouse helped pay for it with marital funds.
Additionally, many married couples work toward their retirement plans together. But assets like pensions and retirement plans may require additional steps before they can be split up.
Working with an attorney is a good idea for everyone, especially older couples who are thinking about getting a divorce. Given how hard it can be to divide property in a gray divorce, having a lawyer’s help can make a big difference in how things turn out.