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Posted on January 20, 2014 in Assets

California is considered a community property state and this means that everything you have acquired as a couple during the period of your marriage is split down the middle. However, while this property division rule looks simple enough on paper, there are exceptions that can be made, and dividing assets in this manner may not be a good solution for you or your spouse.

Therefore, it is a good idea for you to understand how this law affects you and what you should keep in mind as you prepare to go your separate way.


When most people think about property division in divorce, they think about cars, homes, bank accounts and investments. However, debt is also subject to division during divorce in California, and this means that, just as you have to have an equal separation of property, you also have to divide the amount of money that you owe.

Examples of debt:

  • Credit cards
  • Signature loans
  • Car loans
  • Mortgages
  • Taxes
  • Business debt (if a business was started after the marriage began)

While debt acquired before a marriage is not normally subjected to this law, such as student loans, home mortgages, and credit cards, there are exceptions that you should be aware of. For example, if you purchased a home before you married and then put your spouse’s name on the title (or vice versa), then both of you may be responsible for the amount owed on the house.


Certain property is classified as separate property is not subject to property division in California. Gifts and inheritances received during the marriage are one type of separate property.

If you are claiming an item as a gift or an inheritance, you will likely need to be able to provide proof that it was a gift. For example, if your spouse bought you a car for Christmas, you could claim that vehicle as a gift with a photo or other documentation. Inheritances are often easy to prove through the existence of wills and other legal documentation.

Bank Accounts

The characteristics of bank accounts are often of issue during property division because they are easily co-mingled. Frequently, spouses intend to create and maintain separate accounts but certain actions may turn an initially separate account into a shared one subject to division. If you and your spouse have kept separate bank accounts but the accounts are later shared in practice, the accounts may become community property.

Once the court has identified what property is separate and what property is community, the community property may not always be divided 50/50. The court may consider the earning capacity of each spouse along with other factors to determine if an unequal division is necessary. If you are preparing to file for divorce in San Diego County, contact an experienced family law attorney who can help you outline what property may be subject to division and help guide you through your divorce.