Dividing Community Property in California

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Marital Property is Split 50/50 in California

The concept of community property stems from Spanish law, and California is one of the few western states that adhere to this concept even to this day. According to this law, property acquired after the marriage is assumed to be owned by both spouses equally. This means that the principles of equitable distribution are disregarded at the time of divorce, and a new term “marital property” is used to address their shared assets.

Note that the status of “marital property” is only given to either of the spouses’ properties after the marriage, which means anything they own before the marriage is solely theirs. However, there are some exceptions mentioned ahead.

What is Quasi-Community Property?

If a couple acquires assets while living or working in an “equitable division” state then moves to California, the property is known as quasi-community property. It will be divided the same as the other marital property under the laws of California. 

Different states have their own laws, and attorneys of each state know how to differentiate sole ownership from communal ownership.

Dividing Marital Property in California

Everything a couple acquires after their wedding day is shared property. Therefore, it should be divided between them equally at the time of separation (Family Code Section 2550). This includes assets, debts, and loans, etc. that are all subject to a 50/50 division, albeit for few exceptions. The court is responsible for maintaining the credibility of the processes and keeps it as transparent as possible.

1) Know the Worth of your Assets

It is important to know the current value of your assets (property, business, cars) at the time of the divorce before splitting them in half.

For example, if a couple bought a home together during their marriage but the real estate value has changed over the years due to the fluctuating market. The wife says that the house is worth $90,000, whereas the husband insists that the house is worth much more than that. In this situation, the court would be within their rights to inquire about the real value of the property and both parties will have to accept it.

2) Subtract Debt from Property Value

If a couple owns a car or anything else with debt still owing on it, then the court will divide the asset between the spouses after subtracting the debt from the current value.

3) What is considered Separate Property in California?

Anything that either of the spouses bought before their marriage is exempted from community property laws except for insurances and retirement schemes. If one of the partners pays for a 401 (k) plan three years prior to their marriage, and they’ve been married for nine years, the profit will be divided into ratios. The separate property ratio will 1/3, and the rest 2/3 will be divided equally between the two as usual.

4) Educational loans

If either spouse has taken an educational loan under their name and is demanding the other party to pay for the loan as well, the principal of usability will be applied to test their claims. If their degree is not useful for their household and state’s overall growth, they will have to pay for their loan on their own.

5) Who Gets to Keep the Pets?

All marital properties are divided equally between the two parties except for sentimental values like pets. The partner that has the most emotional attachment with the pet gets to keep them.


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