People in California acquire various property and earn income from various sources throughout their lives. This property can be in their name alone or be owned jointly with a spouse or another person. However, while people are married it does not matter which spouse earned the money or purchased the property, both spouses are considered to share ownership of the property.
This means that if the couple ever divorces, they both have a claim to all of the property acquired during the marriage. California is a community property state, which means that all the marital property will be split equally between the spouses in a divorce. Due to this fact determining what is considered marital property becomes very important.
Determining separate property vs. marital property
Each spouse may have owned property prior to being married. This is considered separate property and the spouse who previously owned it will keep it. People also are able to keep any earnings accrued on separate property during the marriage as well as any property purchased with separate property. Also, any gifts or inheritances that one spouse received during the marriage is also considered separate property.
There are times when separate property may be put into the same account as marital property or it is used to improve a martial home or other property. In these situations people may lose a claim to their separate property because they comingled it with marital property, losing its status as separate property.
Property division can be very contentious in California divorces. Each spouse may want to leave the marriage with as much property as they possibly can, which can lead to disagreements over the status of certain property. There may need to be appraisals of certain property and also tracing of separate property through various accounts and property. Experienced attorneys understand the complications that can arise during property division and may be a useful resource.