States treat the characterization of a married couples' property differently. In California, property division is based on the concept of "community property." This means that property or income acquired during a marriage or domestic partnership (except for gifts or inheritances) are owned jointly by both spouses and is divided upon divorce, death or annulment.
What Is "Property" In California?
Community property is everything a both partners own together. This typically includes all money earned, debts incurred and property acquired during the marriage or domestic partnership.
Property is anything that can be bought or sold, such as:
Property is also anything that has value, like:
There is a presumption, unless someone can prove otherwise, that the property a couple owns is joint property and both spouses have an interest. In order to show this is not true, the spouse challenging the community property presumption, must show evidence that the property is in fact, separate property (acquired prior to marriage), a gift or inheritance, or that the couple had a marital agreement agreeing that the property would be solely owned by the challenging spouse.
California Property Division Law at a Glance
|California Marital Property Division: Statute||Cal. Fam Code Section 2500, et seq.|
|Community Property Recognized?||Yes|
|Division of Debts||Equitable division (with an eye toward "fairness" and not necessarily "equality").|
Debts and Divorce in California
It should be noted that debts are not necessarily divided the same way as property. In California, the laws are explicit about a 50/50 division of all community property. However, debts are not necessarily divided 50/50 as well. Debts are divided "equitably" (with fairness in mind) while property is divided "equally." See Credit and Divorce for more general information.
Property Outside of California
California also recognizes what is called "quasi-community property." This is property acquired during marriage and acquired in a state that does not recognize community property. If the couple moves to or lives in a community property state such as California, and then gets a divorce, at the time of divorce, the property that is located or acquired while in a non-community property state, will be treated as community property for the purposes of the divorce.
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