Although there might be a perception that every California divorce is contentious and the parties argue over every part of it including child custody, child support, alimony and property division, not every case is like that. If certain conditions are in place, a regular dissolution of marriage is not necessary and the sides can use a summary dissolution. A summary dissolution is a simplified divorce. Property division can be confusing in these situations and it is important to understand the facts about it before moving forward.
Summary dissolution and property division in California
The fundamental requirements for a summary dissolution are that the couple has no children together; their marriage or domestic partnership was five years or less in duration; there is not much property owned; there is not much debt; there is no request for support; and there are no disputes about dividing property and debts. Still, people might not be aware of their property, its value, and how it will be impacted by the summary dissolution before they begin auditing what they own or owe.
The property is based on what the couple has as community property, which is property they acquired after they were married. The combined value of the community property will be determined by adding together the money they share and fair market value of possessions that they accrued during the marriage. There are financial limits that must be met. The community property or separate property cannot exceed $45,000, not counting a motor vehicle; debts (community obligations) cannot go beyond $6,000.
Fair market value is how much it would be sold for. This differs from what it cost and its “book” value. For example, a motor vehicle might be worth a certain amount in theory, but it would not be sold for that on the market. Money, items like computers or entertainment systems, furniture, and items purchased on credit must be added together to determine the amount in community property. What is owed will be subtracted from this total.
Property division can be complicated and legal advice could be needed
Even in cases where the sides are simply looking to move on from the marriage and have no significant areas of dispute, they might not be eligible for a summary dissolution. Knowing how the law calculates property value, its categorization and how debts are factored in is a key yet understated part of a divorce – even one that is relatively amicable. Consulting with a firm that understands summary dissolutions and property division can help in deciding how to move forward.