California is a community property state. What that means is that the court expects both parties to leave the marriage with half of their marital assets (or half the value of those assets). The idea behind community property laws is that those who are married should be sharing their marital assets if they divorce. No person should be above the other, and splitting the assets collected during marriage keeps things fair.
Not everyone agrees with this, especially because debts can be a part of that equation. Imagine if your spouse puts thousands of dollars on credit cards that you didn't know about. Then, when it's time to go through your divorce, it's discovered that she owes $25,000 to various companies. You could end up being on the hook for those bills, too, especially if they were on shared credit cards or accounts.
Can you separate your assets differently than the laws suggest?
The good news is that you and your spouse can work out your own property division agreement outside court. Your attorney can help you negotiate against taking on your spouse's debts or being treated unfairly during your divorce. You can negotiate to seek more of the assets that you need or change the way you divide assets to make sure you don't end up taking on their debt.
Divorce is hard, and working through property division can be rough. Our website has more information on what it means to be in a community property state and how you can prepare as you begin to go through divorce.