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Property division laws in the Golden State

When a couple in California goes through a divorce, they have to decide how to divide their property. Who gets the family home? Vehicles? Electronics? Collectables? In California, these decisions will be governed by community property laws.

When it comes to property division in California, the state follows community property laws. In general, this means that each spouse has an equal interest in all marital assets, and, thus, the couple’s marital property should be divided evenly between the spouses. Marital property in the Golden State includes any income either party earned while married. Income includes not just wages, but also stock dividends, retirement accounts and other financial resources. Marital property also includes any tangible assets and real estate that either party purchased while married using income that was earned while they were married. Finally, any debts incurred while the couple was married are also marital in nature.

Not all property is marital property, however. Separate assets belong to one spouse only. They include assets the spouse owned before getting married or after legally separating from their significant other. They can also include inheritances and gifts made to one spouse only. However, if a separate asset is placed in a joint account, or in some other way becomes so emmeshed with marital property that it is no longer possible to determine what is marital and what is separate, the separate property will have “commingled” and will be considered marital property.

In the end, this is only a general overview of community property laws in California. It cannot replace the advice of an attorney. Those who are going through a divorce in California and have questions about property division will want to seek professional guidance before proceeding.

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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law
520 Warren Street
Redwood City, CA 94063

Phone: 650-381-9591
Fax: 650-261-9650
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