| Read Time: 4 minutes | Family Law
Is California a 50/50 Divorce State?

If you’re getting a divorce in California, you probably want to know what is going to happen with your property and assets. Who gets what? And how much? This is one of the most stressful parts of a divorce. You want to be sure you get what you are entitled to and are treated fairly in the process. 

To answer the question of whether California is a 50/50 divorce state, you need to understand the rules around property division in the Golden State. We will explain what community property is in California, and we’ll help you learn how marital property is divided.

Division of assets and property during divorce can be complex and confusing. You can always contact our Davis divorce attorneys at Pakpour Banks LLP to help you understand your rights. 

What Is a Community Property State?

States have different ways of dividing marital assets and debts in divorce. Some states are equitable distribution states, while others are community property states. 

In an equitable distribution state, the courts try to fairly allocate marital assets and debts based on a set of guidelines and factors. Some factors the court may consider include: the value of the marital property, each spouse’s respective contribution to the marital property, each spouse’s economic situation, the earning capacities of the spouses, duration of the marriage, if children are involved, and more. A fair distribution of assets does not always mean equal distribution.

Community property states are also known as “50/50” states. What does 50/50 mean? It’s known as 50/50 because all marital assets and debts are divided equally—or split in half—between the two spouses. Courts do not take into account factors like the ones used to determine equitable distribution. Everything is split in half equally. 

So you may now be asking, is California a 50/50 divorce state? California is a community property, or “50/50” state. Without any agreement to the contrary, the marital assets and debts acquired during your marriage will be split evenly between you and your spouse.

What Marital Assets and Debts Are Community Property?

The California Family Code defines community property as “all property, real or personal, wherever situated, acquired by a married person during the marriage while domiciled in this state.” The state views a married couple as one legal entity, or “community,” once married. In plain English, any property acquired by either person during the marriage is community property. Community property is also referred to as “marital property.”

Anything you earned or debts you took on after you got married but before you separated is community property. Those assets and debts will be divided equally between you and your spouse.

A common example of community property is a home mortgage. If you and your spouse took out a mortgage on a home after marriage, the debt will be community property. The mortgage debt will be split 50/50 between you in a divorce.

Another example is a car purchase. If you bought a car with money you earned while married, the car will still be considered community property. The car value will be divided equally between the two spouses.

Not All Property Is Community Property 

Not all assets and debts are community property. California’s 50/50 divorce laws also take separate property into account. Separate property includes any assets and debts the individual spouses owned before marriage. Separate property is also known as “non-marital assets.” 

Gifts or inheritances given to only one spouse during the marriage may also be separate property. Property is also separate if acquired after the spouses have separated. 

A few examples of separate property include:

  • You bought a car in high school and still had it when you got married. That car is your separate property, not community property.
  • Your mom gave you a diamond necklace for your birthday during your fifth year of marriage. The necklace is your separate property and won’t be part of the division of marital assets.
  • Your grandmother passed away and left you an inheritance of $10,000. The money left to you is all yours (as long as it is in a separate account).
  • Six months after your separation you go on a shopping spree for a bit of retail therapy. The credit card debt you add up is a separate debt that you are responsible for.

Separate property is not part of the community and generally will not be part of the division of assets.

Sometimes separate property can get mixed in with marital assets. This is commingling, and it makes it more complicated for the courts to figure out the proper division. Commingling occurs when you use community funds to contribute to separate assets (such as paying a mortgage on a home you bought before you got married) or when you combine separate funds with marital funds (such as depositing them in a joint bank account). To avoid some commingling confusion, it is useful to try to keep separate property separate as much as possible. You may also want to use a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement to clarify property types.

Determining the Date of Separation

It is important to know the date when you and your spouse separated. The separation date will help determine when assets and property stop being marital and become separate. California law says the separation date is the date when the final break in the marriage occurs. Typically, this is when one or both spouses express an interest in ending the marriage. Additionally, the couple then acts in a manner that shows they want to end the marriage.

The date of separation is not always clear. You may need to have evidence to give the court to back up the separation date. 

We Can Help

While California is a 50/50 state, not everything is community property. Navigating the complexities of divorce and property division can be stressful and emotional. Because Pakpour Banks LLP is a small firm, we can stay in close and frequent contact with our clients. We pride ourselves on our one-on-one client service and make sure we respond quickly to emails and phone calls. Though we are small, we have a depth of experience. We have attorneys with years of experience in family law who are prepared to help you get what you are entitled to. Contact us today to learn how we can help you with your divorce.

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Brian enters the family law profession with a refreshing approach to these proceedings: heal families; don’t destroy them. In some cases, this means the family is going to look different than it did before. In other cases, this means a new family is created where there was none before. Either way, individuals should leave family court knowing their voices were heard, and with healthy attitudes about themselves and those they love.

Read More Legal Blogs By Brian Pakpour

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