Is California a Community Property State?

California is a community property state, which means all property acquired by either spouse during a marriage is owned by each spouse equally.
Written by Payton Ternus
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
is one of the nine community property states found in the U.S. In any divorce in California, both spouses are entitled to half of the assets (including real estate and income) they gained during their marriage.
During a divorce, dividing property can add more confusion and frustration to the process. Who gets the car? The TV? The house?
Splitting up property can quickly become heated in divorce disputes. You can claim things bought under your name as your own personal property in most states, but all property acquired during a marriage has to be split evenly in community property states like California.
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What is a community property state?

In community property states, any property gained by either spouse during their marriage is jointly owned and must be split evenly in the event of a divorce. This can include real estate, personal property, income, savings, and retirement accounts. Any debt accrued by one or both parties during their marriage is also included. 
California is a community property state, in addition to:
  • Arizona
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada 
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
The other states in the U.S. follow a system for common law property. Divorcing spouses are able to claim any income or property owned in their individual names. You’ll be able to take all of your assets back during a divorce in a common law state as long as your ex doesn’t have their name on the forms. On the other hand, community property laws were designed to make divorce proceedings simpler by splitting property 50/50.

Separate property vs. joint property

Most property gained during a marriage falls under community property law, but there are exceptions to the rule. The following list describes separate property
  • Anything you or your spouse owned before getting married
  • Anything you or your spouse inherited while you were married
  • Anything you or your spouse gained from a will or trust fund
  • Any gifts given to you or your spouse 
  • Anything gained by you or your spouse during a legal separation

What is considered community property in California?

Regardless of the name found on the paperwork, anything you and your spouse acquired while you were married and domiciled in California falls under community property.
How is “domiciled” defined? This legal term is defined as your permanent residence or where you live full-time. 
Let’s say you and your spouse have a condo in the Golden State for your summers, but your permanent home is in a common law state. The property you own in California will not be subject to community property law since your full-time residence is located in a common law state.
Your California home is community property unless you or your spouse purchased it before you got married. The same rule applies to cars—your name may be the only one listed on the paperwork, but it’s joint property if it was bought while you were married and living in California.

What if there’s a prenup? 

California’s community property law can be circumvented by signing a prenuptial agreement. Signing a prenup is one way to decide beforehand how to divide your assets in the event of a divorce, regardless of your state’s laws.

How is community property divided in Louisiana?

Community property laws are meant to simplify divorce proceedings, but splitting up property equally can be a long and complicated ordeal. There isn’t a way to split a car in half yet!
There are generally two options to divide community property in California:
  • Let a judge divide your marital property
  • Agree on a settlement with the other party
If you let a judge divide your property, they will assign property to each party depending on child custody, individual finances, origin and nature of the property, and other relevant details. The judge will make sure the property received by each party is equal to the net value of the other spouse’s property.

How to save on home and auto insurance in California

Splitting up marital property during a divorce can be a long, complicated process for everyone involved. Finding the right home and auto insurance policies shouldn’t be. When you use
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It depends on the situation. If you purchased the ring for yourself before you got married, it can be considered separate property—but it may also be considered a gift, which means community property law won’t apply.
No. Community property is not affected by the reasons for divorce, it is affected by when the property was gained.
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