Spousal Support

Mastering Spousal Support Options: Your Ultimate Guide to Divorce Agreements

Spousal Support Options in California

Whether you want to support or not, you must address spousal support for both of you in the divorce agreement. You have four options; you can receive support; you can waive support; you can reserve the issue for later; or you can do a buy-out. Whichever option you choose, it might not be the same option as your spouse.

Receiving Support: Ensure Clarity in Your Agreement

The first option is to receive support. If you are going to receive support, make sure to include details in your agreement; the exact amount, the time it will be paid, whether the support amount will change over time, and when support will end.

Waiving Spousal Support: Irrevocable Choice

The second option is to waive spousal support. If you waive spousal support, you can never receive spousal support from your spouse no matter how bad your financial situation. The waiver is final and permanent. Make sure the waiver is written clearly in your agreement.

Reserving Jurisdiction: Flexibility for Future Needs

The third option is to reserve the court’s jurisdiction, or power, to award spousal support to you in the future. You might choose this option if you decide not to receive support, but you want the right to request it in the future should your situation change. This doesn’t mean you’ll get support, but only that you have the right to ask for it later, unlike with a waiver of support. You may want to include a date when this option expires and your spouse can no longer request support.

Buy-Out Option: Lump Sum Solution

The final option is a buy-out. Instead of having support paid over time, the supporting spouse pays the supported spouse the value of support in a lump payment. This becomes part of the asset division and is non-taxable. In exchange, both parties waive spousal support. The buy-out offers finality but requires you to have the money available to pay it. The buy-out is only available by agreement. The judge cannot order a buy-out.

  • Navigating the Buy-Out’s Risk:

A buy-out is very risky. You must assume the amount of support and length of time it will be paid, but you can’t know for sure if you’ll keep your job, get a better-paying job, or if the supported spouse will remarry.

  • Negotiation Strategies: Transforming Conflict into Resolution

You can better protect yourself by converting these risks to a dollar amount, either to increase or decrease the buy-out amount. It still doesn’t guarantee the right amount but might get the buyout to a more realistic number. If this option is of interest to you, this is definitely a situation to speak with a divorce professional to walk you through the pros and cons as it applies to your case.

Negotiating spousal support can lead to a number of conflicts. It forces couples to deal with issues like how much each spouse should be earning or spending. If money was an issue while married, the spousal support conversation makes it worse. If you want to avoid a fight, be creative. Don’t focus just on how much is paid or for how long. Look for ways to address both of your concerns, whether it’s to include review periods, caps on total support paid, step-downs, a plan for the supported spouse to become self-supporting, or address retirement concerns. Including these details will reduce conflict, provide you with more certainty, and guide any future discussions.

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Spousal Support

Navigating Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics

Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics for California Residents

Spousal Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a challenging topic that can create friction between you and your spouse. The allocation of resources may seem uneven, but there’s an opportunity to shift this perspective. By incorporating comprehensive elements into your negotiations, like the duration of support, potential adjustments to the support amount, and the eventual conclusion of payments, you can transform this complex discussion. Successfully doing so increases your likelihood of achieving an alimony agreement that aligns with your requirements and alleviates stress between both parties.

Short vs. Long-Term Marriages: Decoding Spousal Support Rules

The premise for spousal support is that the lower earner, the supported spouse, doesn’t have the same ability to maintain his or her lifestyle as well as the higher earner, the supporting spouse. In order to maintain that lifestyle or even just to be able to pay expenses, the lower earner will need the financial support of the other spouse. The longer a couple is married, the longer the lower earner can receive support.

  • Short-term Spousal Marriage:

If your marriage is less than 10 years long, referred to as a short-term marriage, spousal support is paid for half the length of the marriage, except in very unusual circumstances. The marriage is calculated from the date of marriage to the date of separation. For example, if the couple was married for 7 years, the supported spouse would receive three and a half years in spousal support. After support is paid for that time, spousal support terminates, that is, you can no longer get spousal support from your spouse.

  • Long-term Spousal Marriage:

For marriages that are 10 years or longer, referred to as long-term marriages, the judge is not allowed to terminate spousal support with the final divorce. But, after the divorce is final, the supporting spouse can go back to court to request that it be terminated. To be successful, the spouse will need a valid reason like the supported spouse hasn’t made any efforts to be self-supporting, or he’s now retired and doesn’t have the ability to continue paying support.

Even if you have a long-term marriage, you don’t have to wait. If you both agree to put in a date for termination from now, you can include that in your divorce agreement. You want to be careful in doing so since it’s not required and you cannot predict the future. If you have a short-term marriage, you can also agree to a different length of time, other than half the length of your marriage. Whether you have a short or long-term marriage, all support orders automatically terminate if the supported spouse remarries or if either of the spouses dies.

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Unveiling Income’s Impact: Spousal Support(Alimony) Calculations

The Alimony of spousal support depends on a number of issues, the most important being the amount of income each person earns.

Income is broadly defined. It includes all kinds of income such as salary, bonuses, commissions, employee benefits, and investment income. It even includes non-cash benefits like an employee car, parking reimbursement, or cell phone. If either party’s income is less than what he or she could earn, the court can look at that spouse’s ability to earn income, not just what the spouse is actually earning. If the earning potential is more than actual income, the judge can use the spouse’s earning potential instead of actual income, referred to as imputed income.

Spousal support (alimony) is paid monthly on regular or recurring income, like salary, usually one-half on the first and one-half on the 15th of the month to correspond with pay periods. For irregular income, income that fluctuates either by time or amount, a percentage of the irregular income is paid in support when the income is received, referred to as additional spousal alimony or bonus pay. There’s no rule as to when it has to be paid. You can agree that it’s paid within 30 days, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.

If you are required to pay spousal support, it’s also very important that you do not pay your spouse in cash. It will be hard to prove that you paid your spouse, which you might have to do if your spouse later alleges you didn’t pay or you have to prove the support was paid for an audit. Use a trackable method like check or direct deposit.

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Spousal Support

2024 Permanent Spousal Support

Permanent Spousal Support

Permanent spousal support starts when you finish your divorce. Permanent support doesn’t mean support will be paid forever, but it’s the spousal support order in your divorce agreement. The purpose of permanent support is different from temporary support. Permanent support is paid so the lower earner can maintain the standard of living the spouse had during marriage, or as close to it as possible. The marital standard of living, referred to as the MSOL, is the lifestyle a couple

enjoyed during the marriage.

The Marital Standard of Living:

MSOL is more than just how much the couple spent their money on basic needs, like gas, groceries, housing, and clothing. It also includes how much was spent

on eating out, savings, and travel. After divorce, both spouses have a right to continue enjoying that lifestyle.

But it’s nearly impossible for both spouses to continue living at that standard because many expenses, like rent, insurance, internet, and utilities, double. As a result, permanent spousal support is typically less than the MSOL, but still more support than what would cover the supported spouse’s basic needs.

How Much Support?

Since permanent support is about your standard of living, the judge is not allowed to use support software as with temporary spousal support to figure out the permanent amount. Instead, the judge must carefully consider Family Code Section 4320. This code section lists all the circumstances that are important to figuring out permanent support including how much the parties earn; their standard of living; their age; their health; and whether they could both work. Although this information is helpful, because there’s no formula, you can arrive at a different support amount in the same case. This makes permanent far more subjective than

temporary support.

Using Calculator with Permanent Support:

Even though there’s no formula for permanent support, and the judge cannot use a support calculator, you can simplify the process for yourself and use the support calculator for guidance. It’s very common for divorce professionals to use temporary spousal support calculators as a starting point. The calculators provide tax information, net income, and other useful information. Once you have the temporary number, then analyze the factors in Section 4320 carefully to negotiate whether the temporary number should change. Except in unusual circumstances, permanent support is similar to the temporary support number. There is some case law that suggests it should be less, but that is often dependent on the 4320 factors and how much time has passed from the date of separation.

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Spousal Support

2024 Modifying Spousal Support

Modifying Spousal Support

In the future, your spousal support order may no longer be right because of some kind of life change. If it’s a material change of circumstances, you can change the spousal support order, called a modification. A material change of circumstance requires a significant change that was not present when the original support order was made. Some examples of a material change might be a disability, unemployment, retirement, significant change of income, or if the supported party cohabitates with a romantic partner. But, without a material change of circumstance, spousal support cannot be modified. This is to protect the spouses from constantly re-negotiating spousal support. Not liking the order is not a material change.

You can waive this protection. If you don’t have a material change, but you both agree to modify support, you can modify it with a written agreement, which waives the material change requirement. This doesn’t happen often. Most of the time, one spouse will want to keep the original order and will not waive the material change requirement.

If you have reached an agreement to modify with your spouse, use “Spousal, Partner or Family Support Order Attachment,” FL-343, and follow the instructions in “Obtaining Temporary Orders”. Otherwise, if you have a material change and no agreement, you can file a request with the court using the Request for Order, FL-300 with FL-343, and follow the instructions in Obtaining Temporary Orders as well.

If you are unsure if there has been a material change, just as with child support, you can request a completed Income and Expense Declaration, FL-150, from your spouse, once a year, while support is being paid. You can review it to see if there have been any changes. If your spouse requests one from you, make sure to complete it fully. If you do not, your spouse can request the information from your employer and you can be sanctioned by the court.

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Spousal Support

2024 Creating a Detailed Spousal Support Agreement

Creating a Detailed Spousal Support Agreement

When you include permanent support in your agreement, you want to include the amount, when it starts, what days in the month it will be paid, and if agreed, when it will end. You can also add more to the agreement, such as when a spouse needs to start looking for a job, or when either person can retire early. The more comprehensive your agreement, the more opportunities you have to make a fair agreement and have fewer disagreements in the future. In our sample MSA, we have provided an example.

You might also include step-downs in your divorce agreement. An agreed timeframe of when spousal support will be reduced to the new amount. You might decide that these step-downs should be included because one of the 4320 factors is the duty of the supported spouse to become self-supporting. In a short-term marriage, the supported party is given half the length of the marriage to be self-supporting. There’s no rule of thumb for long-term marriages. As for the judge, I believe she would take note of whether it’s been half the time of the marriage, and would weigh the spouse’s efforts to be self-supporting against other issues like the spouse’s health and age, the age of the children at home, and if there are children with special needs.

If you are the supporting spouse, it’s a good idea to discuss with your spouse what he or she will do to become self-supporting. Use this conversation as a time to set realistic expectations between you. You might agree that support will be higher while the spouse goes back to school, or gets job training, and after that time, support automatically steps down to account for the spouse’s ability to work. If you do agree on a course of action, include it in your divorce

agreement. And be fully aware of what you are agreeing to; that it’s right for you in the context of your case.

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Property Division (Community & Separate)

Community property states| What it is and how it works?

What is Community Property in Ca Divorce?

In divorce, how assets and debts are divided is subject to a number of laws. Assets being what you own and debts are what you owe. Since laws are the same for assets and debts, I’ll refer to both collectively as property.

How property is divided depends on its character. There are two types of character, separate property, and community property. Separate property belongs to one spouse, and community property belongs to both. Whether the property is separate or community mostly depends on when you got it. If you received property before you got married or after your date of separation, it is your separate property. This includes the money you earn after you separated, although you may be required to pay support based on your earnings after you separate. Gifts or inheritance is separate property even if received while married. And any increases to the value of a separate property during the marriage, including any appreciation, profits, or rental income, is considered separate property, even though the increased value occurred during the marriage.

All other property received during the marriage is community property and divided equally between the spouses. This includes the salary you earned while you were married because California views marriage as a partnership. If you saved your salary or used it to make a purchase, your savings and what you purchased with your salary are community property too.

In the rare situation that you have less than $5,000 in community property and you cannot locate your spouse, the court has the power to award all of the community property to you.

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Otherwise, unless you have another agreement with your spouse, like a prenup, these property laws apply to you. You can agree not to follow them, but if doing so favors one of you more than the other, the spouse getting a bad deal will have an incentive to go to court or not sign the divorce agreement. It’s better to negotiate with an understanding of the property laws, so you can use your knowledge to offer a proposal that is more likely to end in agreement.

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Property Division (Community & Separate)

2024 Options for Dividing the Property in a California Divorce

Options for Dividing the Family Home in a California Divorce

Property to Divide in Divorce:

There are common properties to divide in a divorce like the family home, retirement plans, employee stock plans, household items, and debts. You can

divide these using the traditional divisions discussed, or use more creative strategies like holding the property jointly after divorce or constructing a payment plan for a buyout.

Options for the Family Residence:

You have a number of options for the family home. You can sell the house, one of you can buy it from the other, or you could jointly own the home.

Sell the Home:

If you sell the home, you divide the community proceeds from the sale. The sale proceeds are what you receive after you sold your house; the sale price less the mortgage, any other loans, and the costs to sell.

Once sold, you no longer own property with your spouse and can easily divide the cash between you. However, selling can have downsides. For example, you might want to avoid selling to keep your children in the house and avoid having to change schools and move away. On the other hand, you can minimize the impact by selling during your children’s summer break, a typically high-selling season, and avoid moving the children mid-year.

You can also include in your agreement that decisions to sell the house must be made jointly, like who will be the real estate agent, what will be the listing price, accepting an offer, and dividing the funds from escrow.


If you want to keep the house, you can buy your spouse out of their ownership in the family home. You owe your spouse one-half of the community equity in the home. This is calculated as the fair market value minus the loans less any separate property. This amount is then divided in two. You can value the home using comparables, online sites, paying for a formal appraisal, or negotiating a value with your spouse.

You can purchase the property by taking less of other community properties; pay cash for what you owe, or refinance the house to take cash out to pay your spouse. This is called a cash-out refinance. It is an expensive option because you will be paying it back to the bank with interest, and you may end up increasing your mortgage payment. You can also combine these two options by taking less from another asset and paying the rest with the refinance.

You might also negotiate the costs to sell the property, including any taxes, and reduce the amount you need to pay your spouse. Although the judge would not reduce the value of your home for these costs, you can do so by agreement.

Unless your spouse agrees to stay on the home loan, you will need to refinance the loan to take your spouse’s name off the loan. You will only be able to refinance in your name if you qualify for the loan, showing that you have the income and assets to take a loan for the increased amount.

If you have trouble removing your spouse from the loan, see if your spouse would be willing to stay on the loan if you provide some safeguards. You might agree that you are 100% liable for the mortgage, and if you miss more than 1 or 2 mortgage payments, your spouse can require that you sell the house. The consequence may seem severe, but although you would be legally liable in family court, the lender can still come after your spouse; and, if you miss a payment, your spouse’s credit will be impacted. And, as long as your spouse is on your loan, your spouse’s ability to qualify for a loan will be limited.

If you are the one staying on the loan for your spouse, consider the risk that your spouse may miss a payment impacting your credit. Also, speak with a lender in your area to learn what the current requirements are for borrowing and whether you would qualify for your own loan if you stayed on the loan with your spouse. You might suggest to your spouse that your name must be taken off the loan if you need to buy a house upon a certain amount of notice, like 90 days. If your spouse fails to do so, you can require the house to be sold.

Deferred Sale & Co-Ownership:

Another option is to postpone the house sale, called a deferred sale. Until you sell, you continue to co-own the house, typically as equal owners. However, one

of you stays in the house and has sole and exclusive use. That person is responsible for agreed to expenses, such as the mortgage, property tax, home insurance, utilities, garbage, and basic upkeep, until the date to sell.

You want to include a firm sell date because it sets realistic expectations and prevents one spouse from keeping the equity in the home from the other. You can time the sale with the children finishing a significant school year such as graduating elementary or high school. If it comes time

to selling, and you both agree, you can agree to extend the sale date.

If you choose to do a deferred sale, you need an agreement that set outs your responsibilities clearly; who will live in the house, who is paying what expenses, what your ownership interests will be, whether you can have a renter or romantic partner living there, whether you can take a loan against the house, and when the house must be sold. The more clearly your expectations are defined, the better the deferred sale will succeed.


Sometimes in a deferred sale, couples will nest. In nesting, the children stay in the family residence, and the parents rotate between the family residence and a smaller place, like a one-bedroom apartment. The parents choose this arrangement so that the children are not disrupted and to save money on a second place. If you are considering this option, consult with a parenting coach or therapist. Nesting requires a lot from parents, from respecting each other’s space to being able to communicate well. Nesting should be in your children’s best interest, not just a financial benefit.

Review each of these options carefully and work with your spouse to reach the best solution for your family.

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Property Division (Community & Separate)

Unveiling the Secrets: How to Prove Your Separate Property in a California Divorce

How to Prove Your Separate Property in a California Divorce

Figuring out the Character of Property in a CA Divorce: Identifying and Proving Ownership

Community and Separate Property in a California divorce can pose challenges in identification during the complex landscape of a California divorce. In the union of marriage, it’s commonplace to share bank accounts and utilize gifts, inheritance, or pre-marital savings to offset expenses or loans. However, navigating the blurred lines between separate and community property requires a keen understanding of the intricacies involved.

  • Shared Finances and Mixed Property

Marriage often leads to the intertwining of financial aspects, potentially leading to assets with dual characteristics—both separate and communal—referred to as mixed property. In a litigation scenario, the division of mixed property rests on your ability to substantiate the separate portion. Success in this endeavor results in the separate portion going to you, while the communal portion is equally divided between both parties.

  • Diverse Scenarios: Community vs. Separate Property

For many couples, community property predominates, especially when they enter marriage with limited assets or haven’t received inheritances or gifts. In such cases, assets are shared equally upon divorce due to the absence of significant separate property elements.

Conversely, some couples acquire separate or mixed assets over time. This situation warrants the obligation to validate your separate property claim—a daunting task, especially in lengthy marriages with inadequate records or fluctuating property values. Nonetheless, with proper information, this can be accomplished.

Proving Separate Property

To establish separate property, several avenues can be pursued, often encapsulated as the “Four T’s“: Time, Tracing, Title, and Transmutation.

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This concrete factor highlights the property’s character. Demonstrating that an asset was acquired before marriage or post-separation solidifies its status as separate property. However, merely proving time isn’t enough. If you included your spouse’s name in the title while married, the property might have been conveyed to the community.


Ownership is showcased through a title. Assets like cars, real estate, bank accounts, and life insurance are prime examples. Sole ownership implies separate property, whereas joint ownership leans toward community property. Exceptions exist for assets exclusively titled in one person’s name.


Employing evidence, such as bank statements, traces an asset’s original source and current status. For instance, showing a savings account statement from before marriage establishes funds as separate property. Subsequent statements detail how those funds were utilized—whether saved, invested, or commingled with community assets.


Even with established separate property, transmutation—an intentional change in property’s character—can occur. Property can transform from separate to community or vice versa, usually through a written agreement, unless specified otherwise.

  • Complex Cases and Expert Consultation

Matters like retirement accounts complicate property division due to market fluctuations affecting contributions. Expert advice, often from a divorce professional, is crucial for accurate evaluation of property portions.

  • Achieving Clarity in Property Division

Successful establishment of property character results in a judge confirming ownership. Failure to prove separation leads to a 50-50 division of communal property. Negotiations may also secure partial separate property credits, even if conclusive proof is elusive.

  • The Core of Property Division

Ultimately, reaching a fair and sensible agreement in asset and debt division remains paramount. Unveiling your separate property’s worth may be crucial, emphasizing the significance of meticulous record-keeping for proof. Even with limited documentation, amicable negotiation can ensure equity.

  • Empowering Your Divorce Journey

At TheCompleteDivorce, we empower you with the tools necessary for a successful California divorce. Our offerings encompass required family law forms, comprehensive video tutorials, and customizable Marital Settlement Agreements. Should you require further assistance, our package includes valuable time with a divorce mediator.

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Property Division (Community & Separate)

Dividing Community Property vs Separate Property | Ca Divorce

How to Divide Community Property in a California Divorce

Dividing Community Property:

When it comes to a divorce in California, the division of community property is a crucial aspect that needs careful consideration. Understanding the various methods for property division can help ensure a smoother process. Let’s delve into some effective strategies for dividing community property and address the legal aspects associated with it.

One common method to divide community property is “in kind.” This involves both spouses receiving an equal share of the property, maintaining fairness in the division. For instance, if you possess 100 shares of a company valued equally, both spouses would receive 50 shares each, assuming the same tax or cost basis. Similarly, if you have $5,000 in a joint savings account, the account would be split into two, with each spouse receiving $2,500. However, it’s important to note that for this method to work, you must possess identical assets with the exact same value.

However, not all properties can be divided in this manner. Assets like cars cannot be divided “in kind.” In such cases, a buy-out option comes into play. One spouse may choose to retain the car and compensate the other spouse for their share of the car’s value. It’s important to determine the present value of the property, rather than its value at the time of separation or purchase. This means that if a buyout is chosen, only half of the property’s value is owed to the other spouse, as you already own the other half.

For couples with diverse assets, totaling the value received by each spouse is an option. If there’s a discrepancy in the total values received, the spouse who received more compensates the other to balance the division. This type of payment is known as an “equalization payment,” and it’s worth noting that it isn’t taxable.

Should your case go to litigation, a judge will employ one of these division methods to distribute your property. However, if you’re negotiating an agreement, an additional option is available to you – the choice to jointly hold certain properties post-divorce. It’s wise to consult a divorce professional to ensure proper titling and to comprehend the potential legal or tax implications of jointly holding property after divorce.

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Dividing Separate Property:

Separate property or debt acquired before marriage or post-separation is considered individual ownership and is not part of the community property equalization process. At TheCompleteDivorce, we’re dedicated to assisting you with your California divorce journey. Our comprehensive package includes all the necessary family law court forms, informative video tutorials, and a customizable Marital Settlement Agreement. For those in need of more support, our extended package includes time with a divorce mediator.

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Property Division (Community & Separate)

How to Divide Household Items in a California Divorce (2024)

How to Divide Household Items in a California Divorce

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Household, Sentimentals, Antiques:

Household items, like furniture, kitchen appliances and cookware, backyard furniture, and tools, also need to be divided. The court values these items at

resale value, not replacement value.

Make a list of what you have:

It’s an acceptable choice to go through each room in the house and make a broad inventory of everything that is shared marital property, which could include:

  • Electric household appliances
  • Reclining chairs and sofas
  • Tables and sets for dining
  • Dinnerware sets
  • Outdoor equipment
  • Jewelry

Flip a Coin:

Couples can easily sit down and divide the items. If you have a hard time dividing the household items, you can list the disputed items in order of preference. Flip a coin with your spouse, and the winner of the coin toss goes first and picks an item on the list. Then it’s the other’s turn to pick. Continue alternating turns.

You could also value the items. If you are unsure of the value of an item, look to find one in a similar condition online. If it’s an antique, art, heirloom, or collectible, you may want to appraise the item. Once you have a value, you can buy it from your spouse for one-half the value. If you both are willing to buy it, it might be whoever is willing to pay the most. If that doesn’t work, you can sell it and divide the proceeds.

If you can’t take the furniture:

this can be stressful because it typically costs more to replace household items. Even though it’s not what a judge might do, see if you can negotiate a replacement cost into the division.

You may also have significant rewards, like airline miles, credit card points, or special privileges. Airlines miles usually cost money to transfer from one person’s name to the other. If one of you has community miles, you can value the miles and the other spouse can receive one-half the value in cash or in another property. Or, the owner can hold the miles in the account, and when the spouse is ready to use them, the spouse that owns the miles will purchase the flight for the


You also can discuss how irreplaceable items like family photos, videos, or children’s crafts, are going to be shared to prevent any unpleasant surprises. With a little effort, you each can easily upload family photos and videos to a photo-sharing website or external hard drive. As for your children’s crafts, you can divide them or one of you can hold the items and give them to your children at an agreed to age.

Which things do not Include in Household Items:

Household items do not include your gifts, inheritance, or heirlooms. These are your separate property. If your spouse gave you a gift of a personal nature, such as an anniversary gift, then it is also considered your separate property. If the gift was substantial in value and purchased with community funds, and there’s no written agreement stating otherwise, then it can be considered part of the community division and not your separate gift. Substantial value depends on each family’s financial situation.

You can also be creative with the division of your property and debts. You can incorporate joint ownership of a property or a payment plan for an amount owed between you. This is one of the best advantages of having control of your divorce. Rather than approaching the property division in strict terms, you can negotiate an agreement that meets your personal goals.

Whatever you agree, once you have a divorce agreement about your property, it is final and cannot be changed, so make sure you take time to fully understand your property so that you make the right decisions.

At TheCompleteDivorce, we provide you with what you need to successfully do your California divorce on your own. We provide all the required family law court forms in our automated forms program, all the video tutorials, and an automated customizable Marital Settlement Agreement (Divorce Agreement). If you need more help, you can get our package which includes time with a divorce mediator.

Before you go, consider if we can help you. We have helped thousands of couples in California. Our guided DIY divorce is successful and cheap! Our services are all 5-star!