Legal Center:  Who Owns What

COMMUNITY VS. SEPARATE PROPERTY

by Aaron Dishon, Esq.

California is one of nine states that embrace the law of community property. Community property is a theory of law in which the husband and the wife are treated as co-owners of property in a form similar to a partnership. 

All of the property owned by married couples in California can be classified as community property, separate property, or quasi-community property. The California legislature has enacted statutes to govern how property, and debts, acquired during a marriage must be classified.

The classification of property as community, separate, or quasi-community will determine how such things are divided between the parties upon dissolution of the marriage. Community property has been defined by the California legislature as "all property, real or personal, wherever situated, acquired by a married person during the marriage while domiciled in this state."

Under California law, each spouse owns a one-half interest in any property acquired from the date of their marriage to the date of their separation. This holds true unless the property is “Separate Property”.

Separate property is any property that has been acquired by either spouse prior to marriage, after separation, or during marriage by gift or inheritance. For example, if you receive an inheritance during the marriage the inheritance is considered separate property.

Any income produced during marriage not originate from separate property, is community property. In other words, your regular earnings during the marriage are considered community, regardless of whether they are held in an account in your name or that of your spouse.


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