Understanding community and separate property in a divorce

On Behalf of | Sep 14, 2022 | Division of Property |

A big part of the divorce process is dividing your property and debts. Property is anything with value or that you can sell or buy, such as your car, house and furniture. It includes things like your bank account, retirement plans and pension.

Even if you and your spouse divide things informally, it’s necessary to have a judge issue a formal order. In some cases, you can have a judge sign off on your agreement; however, if you can’t agree, then the judge can decide on your behalf. 

When divorcing, it’s important to understand there are two types of property – community and separate. Learn more about these here. 

Community property

Community property is what you owe (debts) and own (property) while you are married. These are things that were acquired during your marriage. 

Separate property

Anything you owed or owned before you married is separate property. It also applies to any inheritance or gifts you may have received during your marriage. 

Is it community or separate property?

To determine what community or separate property is, you must look at the initial date of ownership. This will help you determine if it is yours (separate property) and not included in the divorce or community property. If it is community property, then it is something that must go through the divorce proceedings. 

Protecting your property during a divorce

Sometimes things get messy when trying to divide property and debts in a divorce. While this can happen, you have legal rights. If your spouse tries to keep certain things from the division of property, you can fight them in court. A judge has the ultimate say in the divorce decree over property division disputes in California.