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Community property v. marital property

On Behalf of | Apr 13, 2021 | Divorce |

In every divorce, the parties must go through the division of property. This can be a difficult process — sometimes a technically complicated and tedious one, and sometimes a highly emotional one, depending on the circumstances.

If you have read a little about divorce law, you may know that California law follows the community property model for property division. On paper, at least, this way of conducting property division makes things easier in California than it is in other states. In practice, it’s trickier than that.

Community property and equitable distribution

Most states follow a traditional model known as equitable distribution. In these states, the spouses list all their assets and debts, divide separate property from marital property and then divide the marital property in a way that meets guidelines of fairness under state law.

The Golden State is different. Instead of equitable distribution, California follows the community property model. In this system, everything acquired before the marriage is separate property, but almost every type of property acquired during the marriage is considered to belong equally to both spouses.

More complex than you might think

In theory, community property makes things easier. If everything acquired during the marriage is owned equally, then the spouses should be able to split everything 50/50 in divorce.

In practice, property division is a lot more complex than this in California.  Sometimes even a split down the middle would result in a settlement that would be unfair to one party. In other cases, the parties lived in another state during part of the marriage, and must figure out a way to divide their property using the laws of two states. Every marriage is unique, and every divorce raises its own peculiar issues.

Get experienced help

Property division isn’t easy, and it’s important to get it right. With the help of an experienced attorney, a person going through a divorce can protect their rights and reach a settlement that will help them get a fresh start for the next chapter of their life.


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