What’s the difference between community property and separate property in California?

Community property is property that’s subject to division by the family law court. Generally, and I’m just going to talk in general terms, it’s property that’s acquired between date of marriage and date of separation through one of the married spouse’s time, effort, and skill during marriage.

Separate property is property that’s acquired before marriage or after separation. You can also acquire separate property during marriage through gift or inheritance – meaning if you inherit from your great-aunt and/or you inherit a family property and it’s kept in your separate name, it’s your separate property.

Everything in family law is arguable, and you either come to an agreement or the judge makes a decision. Community property is something that’s central to any family law case because you are going to divide community property and keep separate property separate.

The main factor that a judge considers in dividing community property is really when the property was acquired by either spouse. What that means is, was it acquired during marriage through the time, effort, and skill of one spouse. It doesn’t really matter whose name the property is in – and we’re talking about real property, money, any personal property – anything that’s acquired during marriage is divided in half.

It doesn’t matter whose name it is under, it is subject to division if it’s community property. The general rule is, when it’s acquired, if it’s acquired between date of marriage and date of separation, then it’s community property and subject to division.


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