California is known as a “community property” state. Community property laws and principles are rooted in Spanish common law, which recognized that the contributions and obligations of the spouses during marriage had equal value and ought to be shared. Marriage was recognized as partnership of equals, regardless of individual roles. California law was strongly influenced by Spanish common law.
Today, marital property is divided according to similar rules and principles. The community estate commences on the date of marriage and ends upon the “date of separation”. Generally speaking, property acquired during marriage, whether asset or debt, is divided equally between the parties during the dissolution process. Community property is defined by the Family Code as “all property, real or personal, wherever situated, acquired by a married person during marriage while domiciled in this state”.
However, all property owned by a spouse before marriage, or acquired during marriage by gift, bequest, devise, or descent are known as “separate property”, as are the rents, issues, and profits of that property, and are not subject to division upon divorce.
Appropriately dividing marital property is much more complicated than identifying whether the property is “community” or “separate”. There are many rules, exceptions and formulas that can apply to any given case. Often, experts such as a forensic accountant, a special master, or a real estate appraiser are hired by a party or appointed by the court to assist characterizing property incident to a dissolution or legal separation.
Brett R. Wishart has extensive experience representing individuals from all walks of life. He has successfully handled cases from the most basic to those requiring the division of multi-million dollar estates. He will assist you in identifying and characterizing your property so that you receive what you are entitled to under the law.