As a Fremont, Alameda County, and Bay Area family law attorney, I get a lot of questions about how property is divided in California during a divorce. California is a community property state. This means that any income or property acquired during the marriage belongs to the “community,” which is made up of the two people in the marriage. When there is community property, there is also separate property, which consists of income or property that the two people already had before getting married, or if the property/income was acquired during the marriage but falls under certain categories of separate property. Separate property can also be used to acquire community property and vice versa. The tough part is when there is a divorce and the different kinds of property have to be sorted out.
Community property stays community property even if a spouse opens a separate bank account, or uses that money to invest in a property only in his/her name. For example, just because a husband uses community property to buy a house in his name alone does not make it his separate property. If there is a divorce, income and property can be backtracked to their source, which ultimately determines whether it is community or separate property.
There are some main categories of separate property and they include property that was acquired before the marriage, inheritances and gifts. There can be many other separate property distinctions, but it depends on the specific circumstances of the case. Separate property can be used to fund a community property item, but it can be determined upon divorce how much that spouse would get back. Inheritances and gifts to an individual would likely remain separate property.
There are many intricacies involved in divorce proceedings and the splitting of the assets and debts. To consult with an Oakland, Alameda or Contra Costa County family law divorce attorney, call Howard & Fei, LLP at 510.464.8083 or go to our website.