California law is a community property state. This means that property acquired during the marriage often belongs to both spouses. Upon divorce, the parties must divide the property in which they each have an interest. This process—called property asset division—can be complex and often requires the services of a family law attorney.
In order get a basic understanding of community property, you should be familiar with the three classifications of property under California law.
1. Community Property
This includes all property that was earned, acquired, or bought from the beginning of the marriage until the day you file for divorce. Any property acquired with community funds is part of the community. For example, if you bought a car with your income, the car would be considered part of the community.
Community property also includes debt that was acquired during the course of the marriage. This is true even if the credit card or account was only in the name of one spouse.
Each spouse owns a one half interest in the the community property and the community debt.
2. Quasi-Community Property
Quasi-community property only becomes an issue if the spouses acquired property during the marriage in another state. If this occurred, that property is community property so long as under California law it would be considered community property at the time it was acquired.
Quasi-community property is considered community property for purposes of divorce.
3. Separate Property
California law does classify some property as separate property even if it was acquired during the course of the marriage. Two of the main categories of separate property are inheritances and gifts made to one partner.
Any income made from separate property will also be considered separate property. For example, if you inherited $500,000, bought a house with the inheritance and rented the house, then the house and any rental income is separate property belonging only to one spouse.
However, if the court determines that the separate property has been co-mingled, it will be considered part of the community. For example, in the situation above, if you deposited the rental income into a joint checking account you share with your spouse, all the earnings will be deemed co-mingled and subject to division between the spouses in the divorce.
Property That Commonly Must Be Divided
The definition of community property is broad. Community property can include:
Houses;Cars;Furniture;Clothing;Bank accounts;Cash;Safety deposit boxes;401(k) plans;Stocks;Pensions;Businesses; andIntellectual property.
Effect of a Prenuptial Agreement
It should be noted that if you and your spouse entered into a valid prenup, you may have agreed to opt out of the community property regime in whole or in part. If you have signed such an agreement, your attorney should review it to make certain it is enforceable and to understand the provisions in the document.
Contact a San Jose Community Property Lawyer
Asset division is one of the most complicated aspects of a divorce. By meeting with a lawyer, you will be able to understand what property you are entitled to and what an equitable property division might look like.
Our attorney has over 25 years experience practicing law and exclusively handles family law cases. Contact the San Jose, CA community property attorney at Dominion Law Group, LLP at 408-288-5592 to schedule your first meeting with our firm.