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  • Writer's pictureJames Chau

Property Division in Divorce: California's Community Property Law


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Divorce can be an emotional and challenging experience, with numerous legal complexities to navigate. One of the most contentious aspects of divorce proceedings is the division of property. In California, this process is governed by the state's community property law. As a Certified Family Law Specialist, I aim to provide guidance and expert advice for those facing property division in a divorce. In this blog post, we will explore the basics of California's community property law, discuss the difference between separate and community property, and outline the process of dividing community property during a divorce.


Understanding California's Community Property Law

The Basics of Community Property

California is one of nine community property states in the United States, which means that the assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered "community property" and belong equally to both spouses. This principle is based on the idea that marriage is a partnership, and both spouses contribute to acquiring property and debts.


When a couple decides to divorce, California law requires that community property be divided equally between the spouses. This complex process involves identifying, valuing, and distributing all community property assets and debts.


Separate Property vs. Community Property

It is crucial to distinguish between separate property and community property during a divorce. Separate property is all property owned before marriage or after separation. Also property acquired by gift or inheritance. All rents issues and profits of the separate property. See Family Code §770. The earnings and accumulations earned after separation are also considered the separate property of the spouse. See Family Code §771. Separate property includes assets and debts acquired before the marriage, gifts or inheritances received by one spouse during the marriage and assets acquired after the date of separation. Separate property remains the sole property of the spouse who acquired it and is not subject to division in a divorce.


Community property includes all property real or personal acquired while domiciled in the state of California is community property. See Family Code §760. On the other hand, community property includes all assets and debts acquired during the marriage, except those classified as separate property. This can encompass real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, businesses, and other assets. Additionally, income earned during the marriage is considered community property and subject to division.


While the general distinctions seem easy and obvious, so that many people are lulled into the sense that there should be no dispute on their property. There are of course many exceptions and smaller rules that will affect the characterization; and thus provide many opportunities for arguments.


The Process of Dividing Community Property in a Divorce

Identifying and Valuing Community Property

The first step in dividing community property is identifying and classifying all assets and debts as separate or community property. This process can be complicated and often requires the assistance of experienced legal counsel and financial experts, such as appraisers or accountants.


An important process in the step towards a dissolution is to inventory and disclose all assets and debts. This is commonly known as the preliminary declarations of disclosure. This is a very important document that provides the court required disclosure to your spouse before any division can take place.


Once all community property has been identified, it must be valued. Valuation is essential to ensure that each spouse receives an equal share of the community property. This may involve obtaining appraisals for real estate, business valuations, or actuarial evaluations for retirement accounts.


Distribution of Community Property

After identifying and valuing all community property, the spouses must divide the assets and debts equally. This process can be achieved through negotiation, mediation, or litigation. In some cases, spouses may agree to a property settlement where one spouse buys out the other spouse's share of an asset, such as the family home. Alternatively, assets may be sold, and the proceeds divided equally.


Seek Professional Legal Guidance for Property Division in Divorce

Dividing property in a divorce can be a complex and emotionally challenging process. As a Certified Family Law Specialist, I have the experience and expertise to guide you through the property division process, ensuring that your rights are protected and the outcome is fair and equitable.


If you are facing a divorce and need assistance with property division or other family law matters, don't hesitate to contact my office today to schedule a consultation. Let me help you navigate the complexities of California's community property law and ensure that your financial future is secure as you embark on this new chapter in your life.


Schedule a Consultation Today

Don't attempt to navigate the complexities of property division in divorce alone. As a San Jose-based Family Law Attorney and a Certified Family Law Specialist by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, I am well-equipped to provide you with the support and guidance you need during this challenging time.


I understand the emotional and financial toll divorce can take on individuals and families. I aim to provide personalized and compassionate legal representation, ensuring your interests are protected and your voice is heard.


Contact my office today to schedule a consultation. Let's work together to secure your financial future as you move forward from your divorce.

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