In California, the term community property refers to any assets or income earned by a married person – and it belongs to both parties of a marriage, not just the one who brought it in. It’s different from separate property, which only belongs to one spouse.
And during a divorce, community property must be divided equitably between both of you.
Community Property Basics
Anything that either of you contributed to the marriage during the marriage – with the exception of separate property (more on that later) – has to be divided equally when you split up. That includes:
- Assets you’ve purchased, like cars and your family home
- Investments you’ve contributed to or earned money from
- Bank accounts
- Both of your pensions and employment benefits
- Professional practices and businesses
- Costs incurred from earning a college degree or professional license
What is Separate Property?
Separate property can’t be divided during a divorce. That’s because it belongs to only one of you. Separate property can include things that one spouse did acquire during the marriage, but is reserved for only that spouse. For example, these things can count as separate property that you don’t have to divide:
- Property or assets one of you had before the marriage
What is Quasi-Community Property?
Quasi-community property is property that you acquired while you were living outside California. For the most part, this type of property is divided like community property is. It can include things like real estate, earnings and other assets, as well as debt.
What is Commingled Property?
Some things are part community property and part separate property. When property is part of each, it’s called commingled property. It can be tough to figure out how to divide it, so your attorney will give you the guidance you need. Some examples of commingled property can include:
- A house you bought before you were married, but continued to live in and pay for after your marriage
- A pension or retirement account that one of you owned before your marriage, but continued to contribute to during the marriage
What About Dividing Community Property During Your Divorce?
California law doesn’t require you to split everything down the middle. That would be a huge headache – and it could even force you to sell a business or do other things that are incredibly disruptive.
Instead, the law requires you to split things fairly. For example, if one of you really wants the sportscar and the other wants something of equal, comparable value, it’s okay to trade that way. Your attorney can help you negotiate with your spouse so you can divide your property equitably.
Dividing Community Debt During Divorce
Like your assets, both of you own the debt that you acquired during your marriage. That’s true even if the debt is on a credit card or mortgage with only one of your names on it. Here’s one exception, though: When you open a credit card after you separated from your spouse – that one only belongs to you.
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Your Community Property and Divorce?
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, or if your spouse has already filed, you may want to talk to a Stockton family law attorney about property division. It can be tough to categorize property as separate or community, and even tougher to value it all to make sure it’s divided fairly. If necessary, your attorney will help you find the right valuation professionals to ensure that you get what you deserve from your divorce.
You may also be interested in:
- California Divorce: Who Gets the House?
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- California Divorce Laws on Property Division
- Divorce and Property Settlement: 5 Tips to Negotiate With Your Spouse