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You will typically end up sharing debt in a California divorce

Deciding to seek a divorce is never an easy choice. You may have agonized over it for months before finally talking to an attorney. One common concern that people name when putting off a divorce is how the courts will split up assets and debts. If you don't have a prenuptial agreement on record and can't agree with your ex about how to split your property, the courts will decide for you.

A lot of people understand that property, like your home and retirement account, are subject to division in a divorce. Fewer people understand that debts from both spouses will also generally get split up by the courts. Educating yourself about how California handles debts in a divorce can help you prepare for your financial future.

California sees all assets and debts as community property

State law makes it clear that the courts should apply a community property standard when dividing the household's assets and debts. Some items, such as gifts or inheritances, as well as possessions and assets owned prior to marriage, usually remain separate property. Assets and debts acquired during marriage, however, will very likely end up split between both spouses.

The courts will care less about whose name is on the account than when the debt originated. Even if the debt is a student loan or credit card only in the name of one spouse, the courts will typically split the debt between both spouses. While there are some exceptions to this rule, you should expect to receive roughly half of your assets and responsibility for half of your debts in your divorce.

The courts may deviate somewhat, including in cases with major discrepancies in earning potential. Sometimes, allocating more debt to the spouse with higher income can also impact spousal support or other issues in your marriage.

Dissipation is one case where you may not have to pay debts

If your ex went on a spending spree right before filing divorce, you may not need to pay for that. In general, the courts will not force one spouse to pay for expenses the other spouse incurred as a means of wasting marital assets. If your ex tried to rack up some serious credit card debt before splitting, you can try to show the courts that those wasteful purchases took place after the breakdown of your marriage had begun.

Similarly, if your ex wasted a lot of money or accumulated credit card debt while conducting an affair, you likely won't have to pay for that either. Your ex will have to handle paying off expensive meals, hotel rooms and any gifts given to the other person without your help.

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