Regardless of the particular state someone lives in, making the decision to divorce is never something to be taken lightly. State residence, however, can indeed have a significant impact on the ultimate outcome of a case. This is especially true regarding property division proceedings. There are currently nine states in the U.S. that operate under community property laws in divorce, and California is one of them.

Living in a community property state means that married couples have an equal share in all income, assets and debts acquired during marriage. In other words, everything obtained during marriage is considered jointly owned, no matter which spouse earned, purchased or acquired it. If a particular spouse incurred debt during marriage, community property rules state that both spouses are equally responsible for the debt.

On the other hand, if a California spouse owned property or assets before marriage, he or she will retain separate ownership of the property or assets in divorce. There are certain circumstances by which separately owned property might be converted to jointly owned property. This is why it is critical that a spouse preparing for divorce seek clarification of state laws before heading to court.

Signing a prenuptial agreement is common among intended spouses in California and elsewhere who wish to protect certain assets from division in case of divorce. Any spouse with questions regarding property division laws can request a consultation with an experienced family law attorney. Such an attorney is well-versed in all divorce-related laws of the state and can help a spouse protect his or her financial interests when a settlement is negotiated or litigated.