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What is "community property" in a divorce?

If you are currently going through a divorce or learning about what to expect, you may know that California is a "community property" state. What does that mean? Generally, the term community property, also known as marital property, refers to any property acquired during your marriage. Community property may include the income you and your spouse earned throughout the marriage, the family home, furniture purchased during the marriage, mortgages and any debt incurred during the marriage. Community property laws in California will affect the property division process as you go through your divorce.

Separate property, on the other hand, belongs solely to one spouse or the other. Any property that was owned prior to the marriage, separate bank accounts, gifts and inheritances may be classified as separate property. Upon divorce, the separate property will generally be returned to the spouse who originally owned it.

In some cases, property that started out as separate at the beginning of the marriage may become marital property as a result of co-mingling. This "quasi" community property will be treated as any other community property throughout the property division process.

As you go through the divorce process, you will need to divide your marital property and debt between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. The property division process varies between states. In "community property" states, like California, property and debt will be divided equally between you and your ex-spouse. However, not everything will be split 50-50. The judge on your case will have to consider a number of factors, such as marital fault, disparity in earning capacities, size of the estate, loss of continuing benefit and child custody.

Source: FindLaw, "Community Property Overview," accessed on Feb. 5, 2018

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