When it comes to property division in divorce, California is one of several community property states in the United States. In community property states, all property acquired during the marriage is considered to community property. That is, the property is jointly owned by the spouses. It is important to identify what is community property, what is separate property and when property has commingled.
Community property, separate property and comingled property
Community property, with some exceptions, includes anything earned or purchased while married. It also includes debts incurred during the course of the marriage. Absent a prenuptial agreement, both spouses have an equal ownership interest in marital property.
Separate property, on the other hand, is anything earned or purchased prior to your marriage or after your date of separation. It also includes debts incurred prior to marrying or after your date of separation. Separate property may also include gifts and inheritances made only to you or your ex while you were married. Separate property and debts belong to whoever acquired them prior to marrying.
Commingled property is property that once was separate but has joined with community property so much that it is no longer possible to parse out what is community property and what is separate. It generally will be treated as community property.
Learn more about property division in California
The first step in the property division process is understanding what is included in the marital estate and thus is subject to division and what is not. Knowing the difference between community property, separate property and commingled property is key in ensuring the entire property division process is fair to all involved.