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How is marital property divided in California?

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2023 | Property Division

Every relationship has its share of bright and dark days. Sometimes, relationship challenges can push the couple to sever ties through a divorce. And as you can imagine, divorce is never easy.

One of the most contentious subjects during the divorce is usually property division. Who will keep the house? What about the car? And who will pay those credit card bills?

Understanding California property division law

The laws that govern property division during divorce vary from state to state. California is one of the few states that utilize the doctrine of community property to determine what each spouse walks out of the marriage with during the divorce.

Unlike equitable distribution law which endeavors to distribute marital property in a fair manner, community property law treats marital property as a single entity. In other words, once you get married, California law treats you and your spouse as a “community.”

This means that any property (assets and debts) that are acquired during the marriage is treated as community property. In other words, California law presumes that both spouses made equal contributions and, thus, both own the marital property in question.

So does this mean a 50/50 split of the marital property in the event of a divorce?

Since California law views the couple as one entity, each party is hypothetically expected to receive 50 percent of the marital property. However, this is not always the case. Certain factors can bypass the 50/50 entitlement. Here are some of these factors:

  • Each party’s earning capacity
  • Each spouse’s health and physical condition
  • Other obligations like a child and spousal support
  • The existence of a prenuptial agreement

Protecting your rights and interests

When a couple decides to divorce, one of the biggest issues they will need to address is the division of the marital property. Knowing how California’s marital property laws work can help you protect your rights and receive what is rightfully yours when dissolving your marriage.