Kevin Qualls Family Law
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Review of California's community property laws

Like a handful of other states, California follows the community property model when it comes to married couples.

What this means is that, when a couple marries, their property fits in to one of three basic pools. Specifically, the property can be separate property which belongs to either one spouse or the other spouse. The property can also be community property, meaning that it belongs to both spouses equally.

Lots of items will follow under the umbrella of community property, particularly if a couple has been married for a number of years. Although detailed questions about what is or is not community property should be directed to an experienced attorney, community property basically includes any and all income either spouse receives during the marriage, as well as all assets the couple acquires using this income.

In the context of a divorce, a judge will divvy up all community property equally, that is,50-50, between the two spouses. On the other hand, separate property will always go to the spouse who owns it. As a result, whether and to what extent property belongs to the marital community can be the subject of hotly contested litigation, particularly when a couple owns a lot of assets.

California's process is different from the majority of other states. In other states, while the starting point may be a 50-50 split, judges usually have broad discretion to divide the estate fairly, even if fair is not 50-50. Incidentally, the notion of community property applies in a number of other legal contexts as well, such that even happily married couples in Orange County need to have some idea of how it works.

An Orange County resident going through a divorce or separation will almost inevitably need some basic understanding of how community property works. While this overview hopefully helps, an Orange County resident's family law attorney should be able to tailor legal advice to their specific situations.

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