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Protect your income in a California divorce

On Behalf of | Mar 2, 2024 | divorce

California has many characteristics that make it unique. Its beautiful coastal scenery makes it a prime location for real estate. Famous landmarks and towns like the Golden Gate Bridge or Hollywood attract tourists from across the country and around the world. There are also legal issues that make California unique. For example, it is one of only nine states in the country that operates under community property guidelines in a divorce. 

This means that, if you file for a divorce, all marital property will be split 50/50 between you and your ex. Marital property includes all assets and liabilities acquired during your marriage, including your income. It’s understandable that, once you have filed for divorce, you’ll want to start building financial independence. Protecting your income from property division is one way to do so.  

Income after separation is not community property in a California divorce 

It would be unlawful for you to start draining money without your spouse’s knowledge from a jointly owned bank account prior to property division proceedings in your divorce. In fact, doing so constitutes hiding assets, which is a form of perjury. The court can hold you in contempt for the deception. However, you are free to open a new bank account in your name only.  

After the date of separation, any money you earn is your separate property, meaning it is not subject to property division under community property guidelines. In short, you do not have to share income earned after separation with your spouse. Therefore, if you open an individual bank account and have your paychecks deposited into it, all the money in the account belongs to you. 

How does state law define “date of separation”? 

Under California divorce laws, the date of separation in your marriage is the day you or your spouse (or both of you) determined a final, irreversible breakdown in your marriage. In short, it’s the day you determined that your marriage was over. You may have informed your spouse that you were filing for a divorce. You or your spouse might have moved out of the house, or you might have simply said, “It’s over between us,” or something similar.  

From that day forward, your income or other assets you acquire are no longer community property. Things can get tricky, however. For example, if your spouse uses comingled funds from a jointly owned account to purchase a luxury item after your date of separation, this could spark legal complications in your divorce. 

Review state laws before agreeing to a settlement 

It’s best to make sure you clearly understand California divorce and property division laws before signing a settlement agreement. Protecting your income and other financial assets are a top priority, which is why it’s wise to seek experienced guidance and support before heading to court.