Separating property in a California divorce

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Separating property in a California divorce

Going through a divorce is no easy feat. While there are many topics to negotiate, dividing property may be one of the most difficult. You can achieve property division through mediation or through traditional litigation, depending on the circumstances of your case.  

It is beneficial for divorcing couples to understand the difference between marital and separate property to make sure they secure everything they are meant to receive in the final divorce decree.  

How does community property work?

California is one of the few states in the nation that follow a community property law when it comes to dividing marital assets. Under this model, California courts divide all community property equally in half. Furthermore, all existing debt incurred during the marriage is divided equally in half as well.  

What is the difference between separate and marital property?

According to California Courts, community property includes the following: 

  • Bank account contents 
  • 401k plans, retirement accounts, stock options and term life insurance policies 
  • Intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks and copyrights 
  • Lottery ticket winnings and income tax refunds 
  • Memberships to country clubs and golf courses 
  • Travel reward miles and loyalty points 

Gifts you and your spouse exchanged during the marriage are also community property.  

Yet there are items that may stay with you after the divorce settlement. Gifts you received from a third-party before, during or after the marriage is known as separate property. In addition, inheritance, personal injury compensation and property you owed prior to the marriage. It is important to avoid mixing your separate property with community property. Doing so can change the status of the property and assets to community property, making it eligible for division in the final settlement.