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California Property Division

When a couple divorces, state law determines the distribution of the married couple's property. California is one of a few community property states. This means all property acquired during marriage or domestic partnership is the equal property of both spouses. Community property is subject to equal division during the divorce process, as are community debts.

Most states are equitable distribution states. During a divorce or legal separation, courts divide marital property according to what is fair to both parties. For instance, a partner's credit card debt might remain their separate property, but the value of the house would be a community asset.

California community property law divides all property 50/50 unless the parties have a prenuptial agreement stating otherwise or unless the parties have other reasons for a different division of marital assets. This article provides a brief overview of marital property laws in California.

What Is ‘Property’ in California?

Property is any tangible item and any intangible item of value. Cars, homes, and furniture are property. Bank accounts, pension plans, and student loans are also property. Property acquired during the marriage is considered community property if its use has benefited the community. For instance, if the couple buys a house, it’s community property. If one partner takes out a loan to start a business, it’s also community property.

Property acquired before the marriage or after the date of separation is the spouse's separate property. Some property acquired during marriage, such as gifts, inheritances, or personal injury settlements, is also separate property. Mixing or "commingling" the gift with community assets makes it subject to division.

California Community Property Rules

Several things determine a California divorce settlement agreement:

  • The presence of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
  • The length of the marriage
  • A written agreement specifying a division of assets
  • Allegations of domestic violence

Courts calculate child support, child custody and visitation, and spousal support separately from community property.

California Property Division Law: At a Glance

California Marital Property Division: Statute

 § 2500 et seq. of the California Family Code

Community Property Recognized?


Division of Debts

California includes debts in the community estate, so these are also divided 50/50

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

California Marital Property Laws: Related Resources

Speak to a Lawyer About California Property Division

Getting divorced is an emotionally wrenching time for everyone involved. It's in your best interests to consult a skilled family law lawyer when facing issues of property division, custody, and property rights.

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