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Community property vs. separate property: what’s the difference?

On Behalf of | Dec 11, 2023 | DIVORCE - High-Asset Divorce

When the marriage is over and divorce is underway, the key focus besides custody is how property will be shared. It’s important that you familiarize yourself with what the law says to understand what you’re entitled to in the divorce.

It all starts with knowing if your property is classified as a community or separate property. Since California is a community property state, whatever wealth you and your spouse acquired during marriage will be shared equally. In such arrangements, it doesn’t matter who made the most contribution or incurred the most debt; the court will split everything in half.

Understanding the difference between separate and marital property

If the marriage ends in divorce, any asset or debt that you came into the marriage with belongs to you and, thus, may not be subjected to property division.

On the other hand, any asset or liability, that you acquire during your marriage is treated as marital property and is, thus, subject to a 50/50 split during the divorce. If, however, your spouse unilaterally acquired debt, like credit card debt, and used it to advance personal interests like gambling or financing an affair, then you may argue that you shouldn’t have to pay such debt. There is, however, no guarantee that the court will grant your wishes.

Do community property laws apply to you?

Legally speaking, yes. Community property laws apply to all divorce cases that happen in the state of California. If, however, you and your spouse opt to resolve the subject of property division out of court, then the judge might respect your out-of-court settlement.

Property division can be a contentious subject during the divorce. Understanding how the law works can help you protect your financial interests and ensure that you walk out of the marriage with what you are entitled to.