One of the most complicated processes in any divorce proceeding is dividing up the marital property. In California, community property is usually subject to division between separating spouses, while separate property is not.
What is the difference between community and separate property?
Community property includes all property, including debts, purchased or obtained while you were in a domestic partnership or marriage, except for inheritances and gifts. Any income earned by either spouse or partner during the domestic partnership or marriage and any property purchased with those earnings is also community property. One of the easiest ways to identify community property is to determine whether a spouse or partner purchased it with income earned during the marriage or domestic partnership. Each partner or spouse owns an equal share of all community property.
This is any property that one or both spouses or domestic partners purchased while living in a different state, that would be community property if purchased in California. The court treats the quasi-community property as community property in a California divorce.
Separate property is the property that either partner or spouse purchased before the marriage or domestic partnership. It also includes gifts or inheritances to one spouse or partner, even when made during the marriage or domestic partnership. Any income, such as rent, from separate property, is separate property. Anything you buy with separate property or acquire after the date of separation is separate property.
Separate property generally belongs only to one spouse or partner, while community property is usually divided equally. However, some properties can be a mix between the two. Legal help is usually required to determine ownership of this property.