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Are bank accounts your spouse shares with their family member community property in a California divorce?

Question: I am getting divorced in Los Angeles. My wife has a joint checking account with her mother. We are divorcing. Is the joint account part of our community property?

Answer: Maybe.

If your wife can access the money but only the mother contributes to the account it is likely not a part of the community property. However, if your wife contributed funds to the joint account during the marriage, then the account is “part” of the community assets. Money your wife earned during the marriage until the date of separation is community property.

To illustrate: Let us say your wife works as an uber driver and as a clothing store manager and she receives independent contractor income from uber and employee income from the clothing store. Funds earned prior to the date of separation are community property. If she diverted some of her independent contractor or employee income into the account with her mother you and she are each entitled to one half of the income she earned and saved in the joint account with her mother.

The process of divorce in California begins with a summons and petition of divorce and a response to the petition. Certain data such as the age, birthdate, and residence of minor children must be provided in a declaration which is filed along with the petition or response. There are some other documents that are filed with the ones described which are unique to the County in which you live.

The parties have an obligation to provide each other with asset and debt declarations and income and expense declarations. The data and evidence supporting it are set out in forms FL-150 and FL-142 and FL-140.

The parties will begin the disclosure process whenever they like but generally shortly after the filing of the of the pleadings.  Your spouse has an obligation to list all assets in which she has an interest (including separate property) and disclose them to you. If you suspect that your spouse is failing to disclose all their assets you can ask legal questions called interrogatories or demand the production of documents such as bank account statements, W-2 and 1099 statements, etc.

The date of separation can be important in divorces because after the parties separate their income is deemed to be separate property under the Family Law Code.