Realizing that a divorce may be part of your immediate future can feel overwhelming. People often experience increased or even guilt about the failure of their marriage. There will also inevitably be concerns about the financial implications of splitting up with your spouse.
You probably have earned years of income and acquired substantial personal property during your marriage. Under California’s community property rules, much of your personal wealth is subject to division. Obviously, the greater the value of your assets and the longer your marriage lasted, the more property will be at risk in your divorce proceedings.
If you don’t have a marital agreement with your spouse, you will either need to settle with your ex outside of court or ask a judge to handle property division for you. Will your deferred compensation be vulnerable to claims by your spouse?
Income earned during your marriage is probably community property
If you don’t already have an agreement with your spouse designating certain assets or income as a separate property in the event of a divorce, anything that you bought or earned while married can wind up split in the divorce proceedings.
This can feel very unfair, especially if there is a notable gap between what you earned and what your spouse earned during the marriage. Your paycheck and even your employment benefits can be marital property during divorce proceedings.
Deferred compensation, like most employment benefits, will be community property if you earned it during the marriage. Regardless of when your company intends to pay it out, the fact that you became eligible for it during your marriage means that your spouse has an interest in that compensation just like they would in the paycheck you received.
You don’t have to give up control
Choosing to litigate your divorce is sometimes necessary, but it isn’t always the best approach when things first start. Many couples, even those with very different opinions about what fairness looks like, can collaborate and develop a strategy for dividing their property that is fair to everyone involved.
Collaborative divorce and mediation can be tools to help those with complex and valuable assets protect the property that is the most important to them. Familiarizing yourself with community property rules and reviewing your marital assets are often crucial first steps when planning for a divorce with substantial assets.