Marital property vs. separate property in California

Marital property vs. separate property in California

California is one of only a handful of states that adheres to the community property method of asset division, which means most things you acquired during your marriage are shared property with your soon-to-be former spouse. However, some belongings are exempt.

Here is a breakdown of the differences between marital property and separate property in the community property state of California.

What is marital property?

Marital property is that which you and your spouse obtained during your marriage. Examples of marital property include income, earnings, retirement accounts, businesses, real estate, vehicles, and other assets or debts. When you divorce in California, your shared property is eligible for an equal split with your former partner, often 50/50, unless you reach another agreement outside of court or already have a prenuptial agreement.

What is separate property?

Separate property is that which you acquired before marriage, through inheritance or something with documentation proving sole ownership. As an example, if you inherited an estate from a loved one, even during your marriage, the assets you gained are yours and are ineligible for division with your ex. Similarly, if you purchased a home, vehicle or other assets any time before your marriage, you have sole ownership. Documentation is a crucial factor when determining which property is separate.

California’s property division laws have a lesser effect on your divorce if you and your spouse can reach a fair agreement on which property goes to whom. However, pay close attention to these laws if you expect your divorce to go through litigation.