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Property division is no Boy Scout picnic

The Boy Scouts of America have a motto: be prepared. This is good advice for most areas of life, especially if one is considering or has already initiated divorce proceedings. When things are going well within a marriage, one may feel a sense of security that belies the possibility that matters may not be as they appear. One may think that only wealthy California residents need to plan carefully about property division in the event of a divorce, but the truth is that this is something that affects people at every financial level.

The basics that affect every couple are income and assets, debts and liabilities. California is a community property state, and understanding how this may impact one's financial position may help to avoid unpleasant surprises down the line. Getting a handle on household expenses is not only good practice, but it can assist in asking for -- and justifying -- spousal support or maintenance payments.

Setting up a business or inheriting money or property can alter finances substantially during the course of a marriage. Depending on how they have been handled during the marriage, it may be possible to distinguish them from community assets. Keeping good records can create a paper trail that may clearly show the difference between assets that have been treated as joint, and those that remain individual.

Certain aspects of divorce law vary by state, so it is important for California residents to ensure that they are well acquainted with how this may affect the outcome of his or her own property division negotiations. Appropriate advice is important, perhaps even more so if the financial threads are more complex. In this manner, it is possible to achieve a fair and comprehensive settlement, whatever one's circumstances.

Source: The Huffington Post, "The Happily Married Spouse's Guide to Divorce: Ten Tips for the Blissful but Prudent", Stephen P. McSweeney and Tara Jones Willecke, Nov. 12, 2015

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