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Choosing equitable distribution in a community property state

When you're distributing property in California, you have two options. The state laws require that people who turn to a judge for assistance use community property rules to divide their property. That means that they have to divide property equally in the eyes of the judge.

If you and your spouse agree that you don't want to divide your property equally, then you have the option to choose equitable distribution instead. Equitable distribution allows all property acquired during your marriage to be divided fairly, not necessarily equally.

Will a judge accept equitable distribution arrangements in a community property state?

In most cases, yes. The judge wants to see that both parties know what they're agreeing to and are happy with the arrangements. For example, if you have several high-value assets, you might choose to divide them in a manner that suits your lifestyle. You might want a boat and simple seaside cottage while your spouse prefers a large home and rental property. Whatever you decide, it doesn't necessarily have to be valued equally if you can agree to the arrangement outside court.

When you present a settlement agreement to the judge, make sure you have documentation to back up your choices. Be prepared to acknowledge and defend your choices. The person who receives less needs to be aware that they are receiving less property or less of the estate than the law would typically allow for.

Our site has more on what to do if you don't want to divide your property equally in California. It's possible with the right paperwork.

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