Understanding California’s Community Property Guidelines

Know How Asset Division May Play Out

When a couple in California decides to end their marriage, they must go through the process of asset division. This is done according to California's community property guidelines. Read on to learn how these guidelines work and what you can expect if you are going through a divorce in California.

Community Property Defined

In California, community property is defined as all property and assets acquired by a married couple during the course of their marriage. Community property is considered to be owned jointly by both spouses and can be divided equally between them in a divorce. Generally, any debts incurred during the marriage are also considered to be joint liabilities and will be subject to division in the divorce.

This is in contrast to separate property, which is property or assets that are owned solely by one spouse. Separate property can include items such as gifts received from third parties, inherited property, and property acquired prior to the marriage. In California, separate property is not divided between spouses in the event of a divorce - it remains the exclusive property of the owning spouse.

There are some exceptions to these general rules, however. For example, if community funds are used to purchase separate property, then the resulting asset will be considered community property.

Examples of Community and Separate Property

One common example of community property is a house that was purchased while the couple was married. If John and Susan purchase a house together, it will be considered community property and will be part of the sum total of property up for division in the event they get divorced. However, if Susan buys the house on her own prior to their marriage, it will be considered separate property and she will keep it in the event of a divorce.

Another example of community property involves using community funds. If John and Susan deposit their paychecks into a joint account, the deposited money will be considered community funds. If John uses that money to buy something, such as a collectible, then despite John's assumption of keeping that item for himself, that collectible is considered community property.

Separate property can be a bit easier to identify. As mentioned, if Susan purchased a home prior to marrying John, then that house is considered separate property because it was purchased prior to marriage. If Susan has an inheritance from her parents, that money would be considered separate property. If John were to gift Susan jewelry or another item of personal property, that would also be considered separate property.

Speak with a Family Law Attorney

If you're considering divorce in California, it's important to understand the state's laws surrounding community property. In California, all property and debt acquired during a marriage are considered community property, regardless of which spouse earned or purchased the assets. This can be a complex issue, especially if there are significant assets or businesses involved.

It's crucial to speak with a family law attorney who understands California's community property laws and can help you protect your interests. An experienced attorney can also help you determine whether any of your assets may be considered separate property, which is not subject to division in a divorce.

At Schweitzer Law Partners, we understand the stress that dividing assets can bring to a time in your life already filled with various emotions. We work to remove as much of the anxiety as possible and aim to provide clarity on what to expect in the property division step of your divorce. We will also defend your rights to property and aim to achieve the best result.


Learn more about property division in California or schedule a consultation with a member of our Pasadena law office by calling (626) 788-5225 or by visiting our website.

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