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Community property in California

On Behalf of | May 22, 2023 | Property Division

Out of all aspects of divorce, the most contentious involves marital property. From the beloved family home to six-figure retirement accounts, spouses once united by marriage are now at odds.

California law explicitly divides property equally. The state is one of several “community property states,” meaning that soon-to-be ex-spouses have their property divided equally. They can either work together on a resolution for asset distribution or request that the court take over.

The process involves three specific steps and includes:

  • Determining community versus separate property, including real estate and personal property
  • Designate a value to community property while assigning values to community debts
  • Divide the community property

Separate property

Separate property in California are assets owned prior to the marriage and after the wedding that include gifts, bequests, and other property, including money generated by a specific investment. Under certain conditions, the date of separation impacts designation with the particular day a couple finalizes a “complete and final break.”

To keep property separate, spouses have to express their desire to end the marriage or act in a way to deliberately end the marriage.

Timing is key

Serious complications surrounding the separation date can occur if one spouse receives an influx of money as a work bonus or lottery winnings. Conversely, spending significant sums can also impact property division.

Separate property can turn into community property. Referred to as transmutation, spouses can alter the classification of property by agreement or transfer.

Money and property can turn a cooperative divorce into a battle over assets. Help from an attorney skilled in this area of divorce law can make a difference in how new lives start.