Is California a Community Property State?
In California, while a couple is married, they may decide that when it comes to their property, "What's yours is mine, and what's mine is yours." And, this is the way California law also treats community property. This is an especially important distinction couples should keep in mind should they decide down the road to divorce.
What Is Community Property in California?
When a couple is married, any property accumulated during the marriage belongs to both spouses as a community. Each spouse has a right to it, regardless of which spouse uses it or bought it. Community property can include not just things a couple bought while married, but also a couple's take-home pay, and anything bought with that pay while married. This means that even if a spouse bought something solely with his or her own earnings if the thing was purchased while married, it may be considered community property, and therefore both spouses have a right of ownership over it.
This becomes incredibly important should a couple decide to divorce. Some states are equitable distribution states. This means that, in a divorce, their property will be divided in a way that the judge deems fair. Therefore, the final result may not necessarily be an even 50-50 split. However, California is a community property state. This means that all marital assets are part of the divisible estate, to which each party has an equal right. Therefore, in general, the couple's marital assets (and debts) will be split relatively equally during the property division process.
There are some types of property that will not be considered community property, for example, gifts or inheritances. However, if these assets have been combined with marital assets in a way that it makes it impossible to trace back ownership of the assets or in a way that added value to marital property, those assets will have commingled and will be considered marital property. This can make the property division process more complex.
It can be difficult to divide property in a divorce. There can be legal issues regarding who is entitled to what. In the end, though, it is important that the property division process is fair to both spouses. If each spouse has an equal right to marital property, then it may make sense that they each walk away with roughly half of the marital estate. This way, neither party is the winner, which may mean a more amicable split.
Source: courts.ca.gov, "Property and Debt in a Divorce or Legal Separation," accessed April 8, 2018
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Blog Author: Attorney Pedram Mansouri
Pedram Mansouri is a Certified Family Law Specialist and the founder of Mansouri Law Offices.
Visit his bio to learn more about his experience with handling some of the most difficult family law cases.
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