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What does community property mean in a California divorce?

Community property is an area within the family law field that defines how a couple's property is divided when they get a divorce. As you and your spouse begin to separate from one another in your daily lives, you must also separate or divide any property you have accumulated as a couple.

Although there are several states that rely on community property law to divide assets and debts, each state's law works a little differently. Many community property states divide a couple's assets right down the middle in a 50/50 split. California is one of these states, which means both property and debts are divided equally.

You should also understand that some of your possessions might be exempt from community property law. Eligible possessions or assets are considered separate property. The following list contains examples of separate property.

  • Separately held bank accounts
  • Separately held inheritances received before or during marriage
  • Any personal gifts you or your spouse have received
  • Proceeds from personal injury claims

Assets that fall within the community property category include wages earned by both spouses, any property purchased together and with marital funds (homes, furniture, etc.) and income investment proceeds. Family law courts routinely distribute these assets equally between both spouses.

Although it seems straightforward, certain factors may influence the court's decision resulting in a split that is not quite equal. For example, if one spouse is seriously ill or much older than the other spouse, an unequal split may occur. A family law attorney can work to protect your property and ensure you get a fair share of the marriage's assets during your divorce.

Source: FindLaw, "Community Property Overview," accessed Jan. 11, 2018

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