When a married couple separates in California, they will need to figure out a way to divide their assets between them. If the parties cannot reach an agreement between themselves, a judge will make that determination as part of the divorce decree. California is a community property state, and thus both spouses are entitled to one-half of all property that was acquired during marriage that is classified as community property. Debts that were incurred during marriage are also considered community property, so long as they were incurred for the common necessities of life for either spouse or for the parties’ children.
All forms of property that were acquired during marriage, regardless of the nature of the tenancy, is presumed to be community property. A party may rebut a presumption of community property by showing proof that the parties entered into a written agreement saying that the property would be the separate property of one of the two spouses. Alternatively, a spouse may show that the deed of the property or other documentary evidence demonstrates that the property is in fact separate.
Although community property entails an equal division of assets, certain assets obviously cannot physically be divided into two equal portions. Thus, a family lawjudge may sometimes award an asset to one party alone if the award is offset by other distributions of the community estate so as to make the division substantially equal.
Judges may also have some leeway to award one spouse additional assets if the judge believes that the other spouse deliberately misappropriated certain assets to the detriment of the first spouse’s interest. Individuals who need help determining which items of property are community and what interest they may have in certain assets may want to consult with a family law attorney.