California Community Property Law

Santa Clara County Property Division Attorneys

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Resolving issues of property and asset division can be one of the most contentious, lengthy, and expensive parts of the divorce process. It can also be very confusing without a basic understanding of how property division is handled under California law.

At Martha J. Olson & Associates, our experience has shown us that clients who are fully informed and who have a general understanding of the legal process and what to expect are more at-ease and better able to help themselves and us as we pursue their case.

Community Property

In basic terms, California community property law defines assets, property, and debt accumulated during marriage by spouses living with one another to be community property. In California, the net value of the marital estate (assets and property minus debts) must be divided equally as part of any divorce settlement.

Separate Property

Under California law, separate property is defined as the property and assets held by each person prior to marriage or the declaration of domestic partnership. Separate property rights also extend to any assets and property acquired with proceeds from the sale of premarital assets. In addition, gifts to individual spouses as well as property and assets acquired by devise or through inheritance are also considered separate from the marital estate. Generally, tracing separate or premarital property back to its origin is not difficult to accomplish.

Quasi-Community Property

Quasi-community property is property owned in another state or country such as the family residence prior to your move to California. Though not technically “California community property,” it is treated as such in many ways.

Important Information

In addition to these basic definitions, there are a few things worth keeping in mind if you are considering divorce or are discussing the terms of a settlement agreement. First, you and your spouse can save yourselves a great deal of time, money, and frustration by agreeing on joint experts at the outset of the property division process. “Dueling experts” will cost you in the long run even if your expert “wins.”

Second, for similar reasons it is important to try and reach an agreement with your spouse concerning your official “date of separation.” Considered the point at which both of you had stopped trying to make the marriage work; settling this issue early on will make the process of property division much easier.

Lastly, recent changes in the law may make many older prenuptial agreements unenforceable. If you have an older prenup, our lawyers can review it to determine whether it is still valid.

For more specific information about California community property law or to discuss your personal situation—contact us at our San Jose, California, law offices to schedule a free half hour initial consultation.