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How is community property divided in California?

On Behalf of | Aug 19, 2020 | Property Division

Divorcing spouses in California own one-half of all property from their marriage, under the community property model. In a divorce, the California court calculates the value of the marital estate, and subsequently each person receives his or her equal share of the property. 

The court considers the various assets in the marital estate differently. 

Retirement benefits

Community property includes retirement benefits such as military pensions, 401(k), profit-sharing plan and other pensions. One way courts divide pension plans is through unemployed spouses receiving a percentage of the pension plan upon their former spouse’s retirement. 

Another method of dividing a pension is through an actuarial evaluation, in which an expert determines the present value of the pension plan. The employed spouse then receives the entire pension and the other spouse gets other assets from the marital property of an equivalent value. 

Marital home

In cases where the couple does not have minor children or is not able to afford the marital home, a court will order the sale of the house and the couple will split the proceeds equally. If the couple does have minor children, the person with primary physical custody is likely awarded the home. The court will grant the other spouse a larger portion of the marital estate to offset the value of the house. 

Professional licenses or educational degrees

If one spouse earned a professional license or a university degree during the marriage, the other spouse gets part of the marital estate in an equivalent amount to the cost of the education. Tuition, books and other fees count towards these costs, but the enhanced earning ability of the newly educated spouse does not.