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When disputes over community property become personal

There was a time when women had no rights, let alone any control, over their own finances. While this is no longer the case, it can be difficult to establish whether certain financial assets may be considered marital or personal property. In a community property state such as California, it is important to establish where the divide lies.

Initially, it may seem to be a question with a reasonably straightforward answer. In broad terms, money or assets that are given to, or brought into the marriage by, one specific spouse -- for example, legal awards and inheritances -- would usually be deemed personal assets and therefore subject to a separate rather than community property assessment. This may be turned on its head and disputed, however, if the money is then deposited into an account held in joint names with one's spouse.

Gifts of property or money received during marriage can also create a legal minefield. At the time of transfer, it may seem clear how the gift was intended, but when divorce raises its head, one may find that there is a dispute over whether it was indeed a gift, rather than a loan, and to whom it was given. It can lead to the additional problem of not only the two spouses disputing the legalities, but also other family members (perhaps including the person who made the gift in question) having differing opinions and wishes about the distribution of those funds.

These complexities can be used against one during the discussion of community property division in California and other states. Getting the appropriate advice to suit one's personal circumstances is very important where situations like this arise. Ensuring that one has comprehensive records relating to his or her financial position will also assist greatly in ensuring a fair and equitable financial settlement.

Source: Jeff Landers, "Divorcing Women: Here's How to Protect Your Inheritances And Gifts", forbes.com, Aug. 19, 2014

Source: Jeff Landers, "Divorcing Women: Here's How to Protect Your Inheritances And Gifts", forbes.com, Aug. 19, 2014

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