Division of community property is easy, unless of course it isn’t, and then you need to have others involved: Attorneys, accountants, mediators – But that, of course, is what we are trying to avoid.
The simplest form of division keeps a balance sheet. Each person gets an asset or a debt and that value is assigned to their column. A positive value is added to their total. A negative value is subtracted. When everything is assigned to each party, you add up the totals for each person. The idea is that each party will walk away with an equal amount of community property. In order to accomplish this, the person with more in their side of the column pays the other person until the two columns are equal.
This is the mathematical approach, but this is often not the most advisable when trying to talk about make decisions about money in a negotiation with your spouse. This mathematical analysis is something that you need to do before you have this discussion in order to understand where you are going and what you are willing to give up on. You need to know the numbers in order to make an informed and intelligent decision.
The best way to have a discussion with the other side is likely not to go through the hard numbers. If they are not prepared, this can only terrify them. It is best to discuss generalities. Who gets the car and the house. Furniture and furnishing. “You should take the visa. I’ll take the discover.” “My IRA is about the same as yours. We can each keep our own.”
Once you get the large details worked out, you can work down to more finite details. That way there is gradual realization of the mathematical realities.