States treat the characterization of a married couple's property differently. In California, property division is based on the concept of "community property." This means that property or income acquired during a marriage or domestic partnership (except for gifts or inheritances) is owned jointly by both spouses and is divided upon divorce, death, or annulment.
This article provides a brief overview of marital property laws in California.
What is "Property" in California?
Community property is everything both partners own together. This typically includes all money earned, debts incurred and property acquired during the marriage or domestic partnership.
Property is anything that can be bought or sold, such as:
- A residence,
- Furniture, or
Property is also anything that has value, like:
- Bank accounts and cash,
- Security deposits on apartments,
- Pension plans,
- 401(k) plans,
- Life insurance that has cash value,
- A business, or
- A patent.
There is a presumption unless someone can prove otherwise, that the property a couple owns is joint property and both spouses have an interest. In order to show this is not true, the spouse challenging the community property presumption must show evidence that the property is in fact, separate property (acquired prior to marriage), a gift or inheritance, or that the couple had a marital agreement agreeing that the property would be solely owned by the challenging spouse.
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
Learn More About Property Division in California by Speaking to a Lawyer
Getting divorced is usually an emotionally wrenching time for individuals and their families, particularly when children are part of the equation. It's usually in your best interests to consult with a skilled family law lawyer when dealing with matters of custody, support, and division of property.