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Community property in California defines asset division

California is one of few states with community property laws. Community property laws differ from equitable distribution laws since assets collected during a marriage are split equally between those getting a divorce. Any property obtained during the marriage automatically becomes marital property.

In an equitable distribution state, assets are split in a fair way. For some, that may mean one person leaves the marriage with everything. For others, splitting the property equally is fair. In California, community property is always split 50/50.

What is divided equally upon divorce? Some of the assets split include all income you received during your marriage including stocks, capital gains, interest and your salaries. All debts are also divisible equally. Finally, any property you obtained during your marriage using income earned during your marriage is divisible under community property laws.

In community property states, the amount you earn or don't earn has no influence on your right to property. Your marital property is split evenly regardless. There are some assets that remain individual and separate, though. For example, if you receive an inheritance or gift that doesn't get shared with your spouse, this is still your separate property.

Keeping some property separate is possible, but you need to make sure you don't commingle it during your marriage. For instance, if you own a home before marriage, don't use it to raise your family. Instead, purchase a second home with your spouse. That way, you own one home that is not marital property and that can't be taken from you. This is just one example of how you can protect your assets; your attorney can help you find others.

Source: FindLaw, "California Community Property Laws," accessed Dec. 28, 2017

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