A Spotlight on California Divorce Laws: What Is a Community Property State?

Are you getting a divorce in California and wondering how marital assets will be divided between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse? The concept is simple in theory – each spouse gets their share of the assets – but it’s quite complex in practice. Divorce is this way in many matters, and to make matters even more complicated, divorce laws differ based on the state in which you are filing.

If you are filing for divorce in California, then you are in one of the 9 U.S. states that abides by the community property divorce laws (the other 8 states that utilize community property laws are Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin). This contrasts with equitable distribution divorce laws thatthe other 41 states follow. While both community property and equitable distribution states wind up with each spouse receiving a share of all property acquired during their marriage, there are nuances to each set of laws.

What Is the Difference Between Community Property States and Other States’ Divorce Laws?

“Community property” divorce law simply means that all of your marital assets are jointly owned between you and your estranged spouse, so they must be jointly split in the event of a divorce. This includes any assets acquired during the marriage (in the absence of a prenuptial agreement) such as real estate, personal property, savings, retirement accounts, and debts. Note that in California if a spouse intentionally and fraudulently hides any of the marital assets during the divorce process, a family court judge could take the step of awarding 100% of that asset to the other spouse as punishment to the guilty spouse.

Another factor in community property states is that any assets one spouse acquired solely in their name before the marriage, after divorce, or during the marriage as a gift is considered that spouse’s separate property and will not be subject to division during the divorce. This same stipulation applies in equitable distribution states.

The main distinction between the community property approach to splitting a couple’s marital assets and the equitable distribution methods is exactly how the marital or community property is divided between the divorcing spouses. In California, each spouse is entitled to an equal, 50/50 split of the marital assets acquired during the marriage, while the 41 states that follow equitable distribution divorce laws, there is no 50/50 split rule. The court simply has to determine how to split the parties’ marital assets “equitably” – but not necessarily equally.

How Can I Learn More About Division of Marital Assets?

Marital assets and how they are divided is a complex concept to grasp if you don’t have a legal degree, and many divorcing spouses only want what they consider they deserve and is fair to them in the divorce process. We are here to advocate on your behalf and explain all the legalese in layman’s terms so you don’t feel in over your head. Our divorce attorneys at Palmer Rodak & Associates are tenacious and are committed in helping protect your best interests and those of your family under California family law.

To contact Palmer Rodak & Associates for a confidential, one-on-one divorce consultation, please reach out online or call (760) 573-2223 today to speak to a member of our legal team today.

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