Division of Property in a California Divorce.

Note: This article is not legal advice and is not intended to apply to your specific situation.

California is a community property state. What this means is that California law requires a judge to divide marital assets based on their characterization as community, separate, or quasi-community. If a property is characterized as “community,” then it is equally divided between the parties. California Family Code § 2550. If a property is characterized as “separate,” then the judge will not have the power to divide the property, and it will be confirmed to the original owner. If a property is considered “quasi-community, then it is treated mostly as “community property.” California Family Code § 2600, 63, and 912.

Characterization of property

In California, there are three types of property characterizations for assets and debts between spouses: (1) community property, (2) separate property, and (3) quasi-community property. When a divorce occurs, division of assets between spouses is based on its characterization.

(1) Community Property

California law defines community property as all property, real or personal, wherever situated, acquired by a married person during the married while domiciled in California. California Family Code § 760. Keep in mind that “property” includes money saved from income, pensions, retirement account, and most other assets. This applies even if those assets acquired are in an individual account with only one spouse’s name.

(2) Separate Property

In contrast, separate property refers to property acquired before the marriage, and after the date of separation (or when the divorce is finalized). California Family Code §§ 770, 771, and 772. Separate property is not divided during a divorce because it is not community property. Any property that was acquired as a gift or inheritance during the marriage is also considered separate property.

(3) Quasi-Community Property

Quasi-Community property refers to property owned or acquired in another state prior to one’s move to California. California Family Code § 125. Also, quasi-community property can be created in a nullity action for a “putative spouse,” or a spouse who in good faith believed the marriage to be valid. Under California law, these types of acquired property cannot be classified as community property, hence they are given the name quasi-community. However, it is treated very much like community property for purposes of division of assets in a divorce. California Family Code § 2600, 63, and 912.