Earlier this month, this blog discussed the impending divorce of Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and founder. He and his wife apparently had no prenuptial agreement, and their divorce is subject to the community property laws in their home state. California is also a community property state when it comes to divorce proceedings. While Bezos is said to be among the world's wealthiest, there are several lessons regarding these family law concerns that individuals with more modest income can still learn.
First, retirement accounts are typically separated during divorce by using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Here in California, that typically means that these accounts are split evenly. If a prenuptial agreement is in place, this could supersede a QDRO. Though some couples find pre or postnuptial agreements to be unromantic, they can be the best way to ensure that each individual retains the property they brought into the marriage.
In the same line, a person entering into marriage who has a great deal more assets than the person he or she is marrying may find it beneficial to keep those assets separate from any joint marital accounts. An inheritance can also be handled this way. Also, if one spouse pays a great deal of debt for the other, or makes a downpayment towards a shared home, that spouse should keep a clear record of the payment and make an agreement that the funds are the separate property of that paying spouse.
Divorce can be a difficult situation for anyone of any income level here in California. There can be a great deal of questions surrounding the entire divorce process. An attorney who is knowledgeable in handling divorce agreements may be the best person to consult during this potentially stressful time, as such a professional can best advise an individual of the most beneficial course of action.