What Is the Community Property Law in California?

Despite California being a community property state since its inception in 1850, the community property system is not an easy one to navigate. Although spouses are supposed to split all assets 50-50, deciphering community property vs. separate property or untangling assets or debts that have been co-mingled during the course of your marriage—among other things—can make it confusing to divide property and debt in a fair and equitable manner.

What Is Community Property in California Divorce?

A “community” is comprised of two people and formed when they legally marry or register a domestic partnership. California is governed by the community property law, which means that all property and debt acquired by either spouse during the marriage or domestic partnership belongs equally to both parties. Any property, cars or other vehicles, accumulated income and savings, 401(k)s, and stocks and bonds acquired during the marriage are to be split evenly. Similarly, any mortgages, credit card debt, or car loans accumulated during the marriage also belong to the community.

How Is Community Property Divided?

The law does not require you to divide each physical object, as obvious as that may seem. All the law requires is that the net value of the assets is split equally amongst each spouse. Thus, it is common for one spouse to be awarded the family home, while the other spouse receives the family business or an investment in real estate.

Most of the time, it is fairly simple to determine whether a particular asset is community or separate property. However, certain assets can pose unique problems, including a business that one spouse owned before marriage and both spouses worked on during the marriage, or property that belonged to one spouse before the marriage but was shared during the marriage.

Spousal Support

In California, if you and your spouse are married for less than 10 years, spousal support is awarded for half the length of the marriage. On the other hand, spousal support awarded for a marriage lasting 10 years or more does not have a set duration. Typically, it lasts for as long as the recipient spouse needs it and the paying spouse is able to pay. The court considers several factors when making this decision, including whether each spouse can financially maintain a lifestyle similar to what was experienced during the marriage.

If you’re going through a divorce and need help dividing your property, please contact our Murrieta family lawyers at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich for a free consultation. Figuring out what is and what isn't community property can be quite difficult, especially when you're going through a process as stressful as a divorce. Let us help you during this tough time.

Call (951) 506-6654 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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