California’s Community Property Law

Hossein Berenji, Aug 14, 2016

California is a community property state and one of only nine community property states in the United States. The others include Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Most of the states follow an equitable distribution theory. In California, as well as in the other community property states, when two individuals marry, they become one; they become one legal community. By forming this one legal community, any property they acquire during the marriage is community property.

All property in the community property estate is subject to distribution upon divorce. Distributing property in such a manner is often difficult, time-consuming and emotionally draining. If you are going through a divorce and need assistance, call attorney Hossein Berenji at his Los Angeles office for a free case evaluation. We have over 20 years of combined experience helping our clients obtain or retain their fair share of the marital assets during a divorce.

Community Property vs. Separate Property

California defines “property” as anything that can be bought or sold, such as a house, cars, furniture, clothes, et cetera. California also defines property as anything that has value, such as cash, bank accounts, security deposits, apartments, pension plans, 401(k) plans, stocks, life insurance with a cash value, patents, etcetera.

California further defines community property as the assets that are acquired, or any income earned, by a spouse during the course of their marriage. Note that obligations or debts incurred during the marriage are also part of the community property marital estate. These obligations become the burden of both spouses and are subtracted from the community estate.

Separate property, on the other hand, is property acquired, or income earned, by a spouse before their marriage. Separate property may also consist of a gift received by one spouse alone.

In the absence of an agreement governing the spouses’ division of property, California’s community property law requires that the community property acquired during the marriage be divided equally upon divorce. How does this work? Well, spouses will present to the court, the property subject to distribution. The spouses will also present evidence of the property’s net market value. The Court will then make a conclusion on the net market value of the community property estate.

From this point, and upon divorce, each spouse is to receive an equal portion of the net market value of the community property estate. This does not necessarily mean that the court will sell the assets. Rather, once the court determined a net market value of the estate, the court will attempt to equally distribute the property between the spouses. For instance, one spouse may get the marital home while the other spouse may get the marital business and certain other assets. In this example, it may be determined that the net value being received by each spouse is equal.

Hire an Attorney for Your Case

If you or a loved one are going through a divorce and wish for legal guidance, the family law lawyers at Berenji & Associates are here for you. Through experience, we have gained valuable insight into the family courts and will put this experience to work for you. Our law office is conveniently located in Beverly Hills and assists clients throughout Los Angeles including San Fernando Valley, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Santa Monica, Venice, Marina Del Rey, Westwood, Brentwood and South Bay.