California – Community Property State

How California Does Not View Marital Property

To understand how the division of assets and community property laws work in a California divorce, we need to discuss how our state views property rights and associated taxation within marriage. Most states operate under what’s called Common Law, which sees the money each spouse earns and property purchased by those earnings within a marriage as belonging to that individual. The state of California does not view marital property that way.

What Community Property Means

California is one of very few states that are known for having community property laws. This is as important to know going into a marriage as it is when seeking to dissolve a marriage. Community property does not see assets within a marriage as being owned by individual spouses. Conversely in community property states both spouses equally own the property within the marriage.

What You Should Know About Community Property Laws

Here are a few simple facts about how community property law works in California.

  • Property owned before the marriage is considered separate
    • These assets belong to the original owner after divorce or legal separation
  • A spouse can transfer his or her individual ownership of property as a gift.
    • e. “What’s mine is now ours”
    • This becomes community property in divorce
  • Community property starts at the point of marriage

Ends when couple physically separates (with the intention divorce/legal separation)

  • Each spouse owns property 50/50
  • Community property includes:
    • All earnings by either spouse accrued during marriage
    • All purchases with earnings during marriage
    • All debts accumulated during marriage
  • When spouses mix funds earned from before the marriage (separate property) with earnings during the marriage (community property), the separate property remains separate and the community property remains community property
    • When property is difficult to identify as being purchased separate from marital earnings it will likely be considered community property

Experienced California Property Division Attorney

If you and your spouse see divorce as imminent, it is important that you enlist the counsel of an experienced California divorce and property division attorney who can help you understand community property laws. Schedule an appointment at the Law Office of Ann A. Thomson (Seal Beach family law attorney) today. A proficient negotiator who understands all aspects of your situation is an invaluable resource in your divorce. Contact us today for a free consultation.


From offices in Seal Beach, the Law Office of Ann A. Thomson serves clients throughout Southern California in communities such as Seal Beach, Santa Ana, Brea, Yorba Linda, Fullerton, Corona Del Mar, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Anaheim, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Norwalk, Torrance, Rancho Palos Verdes and Los Angeles.
Skip to content