Property Division

California is a community property state. The basic idea is that each spouse is entitled to half of the community property, which is the property that the spouses acquired during their relationship. While this concept is straightforward, in application it can be complex, and therefore costly to litigate.

As a result, BPR Law Group recommends that whenever possible spouses should attempt to reach a compromise that divides their community property without the need for a trial. Doing so generally benefits the spouses since courts typically do not account for the various costs associated with maintaining and selling assets, such as insurance, monthly maintenance fees, commissions, or taxes.

Yet, the intense emotions that can be a part of a divorce sometimes causes one spouse to act unreasonable or vindictively towards the other spouse with regard to property that rightfully should be divided as community property. In such situations, BPR Law Group has the experience and knowhow to force an uncooperative spouse to disclose all income and assets, to locate hidden assets, and to obtain a fair and just property division.

Basic Legal Principles
Before property can be divided and distributed, it must be characterized as “separate property,” “community property,” or “quasi-community property.”

Separate property is any property acquired before marriage or after separation and is considered the acquiring spouse’s separate property.  Any property characterized as separate property does not need to be divided as part of the divorce/dissolution. The time of acquisition is important and is typically set when the original property right arose. Property obtained by “gift, bequest, devise, or descent” is also separate property. That means if a spouse inherits money from his or her parents, that money is that spouse’s separate property. The same is true for any gift one spouse gives to the other spouse. So, for example, if one spouse gives the other spouse jewelry as a Christmas present, that jewelry is separate property because it qualifies as a gift. Finally, assets acquired after the spouses separate — but before they divorce — are the separate property of the acquiring spouse.

Community property is any property or debt acquired during marriage and before separation, excluding any property received by gift or inheritance. This encompasses all types of compensation either spouse receives, regardless of what form it takes. Therefore, a spouse’s salary and most other forms of deferred compensation are considered community property. Likewise, earnings from a privately held business are considered community property if they reflect either spouse’s participation in the business. Finally, all debts incurred during the marriage and prior to separation are community property. Generally speaking, it does not matter whether the debt was incurred by one spouse, or if was incurred by both spouses. It also generally does not matter whose name appears on a bill or a credit card statement. For the most part, if the debt was incurred during the marriage and prior to separation, it is a community property debt, and both spouses are equally liable for repayment.

Quasi-Community Property is real estate and personal property acquired by a spouse while living outside of California that would have been community property if the spouse had been domiciled in California. The definition of quasi-community property also includes any property that is acquired in exchange for such property. The concept of quasi-community property is a method by which California courts obtain the authority to dispose of non-California assets in a divorce.