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Community vs. separate property: What you should know

On Behalf of | Sep 30, 2020 | High-net Worth Property Division |

If you are currently going through a divorce, you may have to negotiate several factors, including child custody and alimony. Yet one of the most difficult may be that of property division, as you may have an emotional attachment to certain items.

You can choose to have a court appointed judge mandate the division of marital property, or you can negotiate the terms of your own property division through mediation. Regardless of which route you take, it is important that you understand how California property division works.

What is community property?

Community property includes everything you and your spouse amassed during the marriage, according to California Courts. Each party must disclose all marital items and assets in their possession. California is a community property state, meaning all assets and property are separated exactly in half between spouses.

In addition to the family home and bank account contents, you want to make sure you receive half of everything accumulated during the marriage. Community property also includes the following:

  • Expensive collections, such as classic cars, coins, antiques, wine and art
  • Travel rewards points and loyalty rewards
  • Lottery ticket winnings and income tax returns
  • Memberships to exclusive country clubs and golf courses
  • Intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks and copyrights

Any gifts exchanged between you and your spouse are also considered community property.

What is separate property?

Separate property, on the other hand, does not have to be divided and can remain with you in the final divorce settlement. This includes inheritance money, personal injury compensation, gifts given to you by a third-party and property you obtained prior to the marriage.

It is important to keep separate property away from community property, as it may turn into property that can be divided in the settlement. Money that is put into a joint bank account or a property title that is revised to include both names on the title converts to community property and is no longer separate.