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What California law considers to be community property

In California, when a couple's marriage ends, their property is to be divided equitably under state law. This means that, unless otherwise exempted by a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, all assets that either or both spouses accumulate or earn during the course of their marriage is considered to be community property and is up for more-or-less equal division. Property or assets acquired before the marriage and inheritances are usually exempt from property division.

Community property is also referred to as joint marital property. Such properties not only include assets acquired during the marriage but also all properties bought with the money earned during the course of the marriage. This typically includes residential property, the family car and other items of value that have become integral to the couple's way of life. Community property also includes community debt, which means that any debt or liability that one or both spouses incurs during the marriage will also be divided between the two spouses equitably during the property division process.

For some couples, especially those with a long marriage, one or both spouses might have lived outside California for some lengthy period of time. In these cases, any asset acquired elsewhere also is included in property division as a quasi-community asset.

Separate property is generally exempt from division during divorce as long as it has not been commingled with a couple's other assets.

There is no way for anyone to know whether a marriage will be successful or whether a couple will part years down the road. For this reason, reaching a prenuptial or even postnuptial marital agreement with the help of an experienced attorney can help both spouses protect their assets and leave them with paid-off debts and enough in assets and property to start over without being or feeling impoverished.

Source:, "Community property," Accessed June 19, 2015

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