Friday, May 25, 2007

Division of Property: What is Community Property?

Division of Property as Exlained by a Temecula family law and divorce attorney.
Our practice is limited to family law and is dedicated to serving the Temecula, Murrieta and Hemet areas of Riverside County)

What is community property?
When the court decides how to divide property during a divorce trial, it must characterize each asset owned by the parties. Anything acquired through time, effort or skill during the marriage is characterized as community property. Community property is divided equally between the spouses.

Anything that is not acquired through time, effort or skill during the marriage is not community property. Examples would be money earned before the couple marriage, money earned by one spouse after the couple separated. Other examples do not depend on when they were received, for instance, a gift, inheritance, or personal injury money is always separate property, despite whether or not it was received during the marriage.

A common misconception is that the court will divide property according to which spouse the name of the property is held in. This is not true. California is a community property state. This means that everything that is owned, and everything that is owed, is community property so long as the asset was acquired through time, effort or skill during the marriage, or the debt was incurred during the marriage. It does not matter who earned the asset. It does not matter who acuired the debt. It does not matter if only one person works. It does not even matter if only one person benefited from the debt. All assets and all debts are divided equally.

If a bank account is only in one person's name, the court will want to know when the money was deposited. If it was deposited during the marriage, the money will be divided equally because the money will be considered community property.

It is sometimes a problem during division of property in a California divorce siutation is that money may have been used to buy a house that was earned before the marriage. Since money earned before the marriage is not community property, the portion of the downpayment that was earned during the marriage would be separate property, and would have to be returned to the spouse when the house was sold.

Another common issue in a California divorce, would be the division property in the form of a bank account held in both parties' names, but containing money earned before the marriage. If the spouse can prove he or she put earnings into that account which was not earned through time, effort or skill, that money would not be community property. The court would order the return of that money.

Finally, spouses often worry about debts the other party is accumulating after they separate. Those debts would be a separate obligation, and so long as the debt has not been incurred in both parties' names, they are of no consequence. If the debts were incurred in both parties' names, they are still a separate obligation, but the creditor will usually not honor this distinction because both parties would have guaranteed payment of the debt regardless of whether the divorce is final. In this instance, both parties' credit could be damaged if the party who incurred the debt does not pay.

If you would like more information on a division of property issue, or any other family law or divorce related topic and you live in the Temecula, Murrieta, or Hemet areas of Riverside county, please feel free to call our office and set up a free consultation with a competent, eperienced divorce attorney: at (951) 587-0505.

For more information, please visit our websites at: or, and riverside legal advice.

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