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Frequently Asked Questions About California's Community Property Law

Resolving issues of property and asset division can be one of the most contentious, lengthy, and expensive parts of the divorce process. It can also be very confusing without a basic understanding of how the courts handle marital assets under California law.

At The Law Office of Martha J. Olson & Associates, our experience has shown us that clients who are fully informed are more at-ease and better able to help themselves — and us — as we pursue their case.

What Does The Court Consider Community Property?

In basic terms, California community property law defines assets, property and debt accumulated during the marriage to be community property. Under California law, courts must divide the net value of the marital estate (assets and property minus debts) equally as part of any divorce settlement.

How Does California Law Define Separate Property?

California law defines separate property as:

  • The property and assets held by each person prior to marriage or the declaration of domestic partnership.
  • Separate property rights also extend to any assets and property acquired with proceeds from the sale of premarital assets.
  • Separate property includes gifts to individual spouses as well as property and assets acquired through inheritance.

What About Property Owned In Another State?

Quasi-community property is property owned in another state or country. Though not technically "California community property," the law treats as such in many ways.

Protecting Your Property Rights

You and your spouse can save yourselves a great deal of time, money and frustration by agreeing on joint experts at the outset of the property division process. "Dueling experts" will cost you in the long run even if your expert "wins."

Second, for similar reasons, it is important to try and reach an agreement with your spouse concerning your official "date of separation." Considered the point at which both of you had stopped trying to make the marriage work, settling this issue early on will make the process of property division much easier.

Changes in the law may make many older prenuptial agreements unenforceable. If you have an older prenup, our lawyers can review it to determine whether it is still valid as you go through the process of divorce and inform you how alimony is calculated.

In highly complex matters, we can draw upon a network of forensic accounts, appraisers and business valuation experts.

Contact Our Firm

For more specific information, call The Law Office of Martha J. Olson & Associate at 408-703-1124. You also can reach the attorneys at our San Jose firm through email. We offer a free half hour initial consultation.