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Does California recognize community property?

California is one of a few states with community property laws. Unlike states with equitable distribution laws, community property states assume that all assets obtained during marriage are to be evenly divided upon divorce.

Community property laws in California are partially based on Spanish law. In Hispanic cultures, it would be normal for property to be divided equally. As a result, California generally has all property owned by a married couple divided 50-50. That means all property including real estate, capital gains, stocks and debts have to be divided in half, not in an equitable manner.

Fortunately, you have a right to submit a different division of property request instead of going through with an even split. Why would you want to do that? Perhaps you and your spouse have a prenuptial agreement that says you won't take on each other's debts that are carried in your own names. Maybe you're in an uncontested situation and want to be as fair as possible to the person who earned and purchased the most items during the marriage.

There are many reasons to be fair during the division of your property, so it's important to consider dividing your property equitably instead of going through with a community property plan. If you and your spouse want to be fair to one another but are conflicted about how to divide your property, you can still opt to participate in arbitration, mediation or other dispute-resolution programs to help you divide your property in a fair and equitable way. That way, you can both feel good about the agreement you create in the end.

Source: FindLaw, "California Community Property Laws," accessed Oct. 25, 2017

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