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Supportive California Lawyer Advocates for Clients in Community Property Disputes

Compassionate law firm protects the rights of divorcing spouses in the Los Angeles area

California is a community property state, what does that mean?  The basic law is simple. Property obtained during the marriage is community property. Community property is divided evenly. Debts incurred during the marriage are usually community debts and community debts are divided evenly. Beneath that simple rule there can be complexity.

How does the California Family Law Code define community property?  California Family Code Section 760 states: “Except as otherwise provided by statute, all property, real or personal, wherever situated, acquired by a married person during the marriage while domiciled in this state is community property.” This includes salaries and other income received for each party’s work during the marriage, real estate and vehicles purchased with community property by either spouse during the marriage, any items purchased with community property, patents, copyrights, and trademarks created during the marriage, capital gains on investments made with community property, and businesses formed during the marriage.

How does the California Family Law Code define separate property? Separate property consists of personal items, gifts, money, and property owned by either spouse prior to marriage, as well as gifts or inheritance received by one spouse during the marriage6. Separate property also includes everything you owned (real property, furniture, accounts, etc.) before the marriage, gifts you received during the marriage to just you, any inheritances you (and you alone) received, rent or profits from separate property assets. Once you and your spouse have separated, separate property also includes earnings received and assets acquired after the date of separation.

Here are some examples of common issues relating to community property law in California: What if one party made a substantial down payment from separate property to purchase the marital residence when the parties first married? Does that spouse receive a credit?  If a couple own multiple properties how are they divided? If one spouse incurs substantial debt for gambling during marriage is that a community property debt?

The devil is in the details. If you have worked hard to build a secure financial life, when you divorce you want to ensure you understand your rights and obligations.

Common issues for clients with substantial assets include dealing with payments of the mortgage made by just one spouse after the divorce is filed but before it’s finalized when both spouses still live in the residence. Does the payor spouse get credit?  If one spouse pays the mortgage, but does not live in the marital residence and the other spouse does is that fair?  Does the paying spouse get credit for the rental value of the marital residence after the petition is filed but before the divorce is finalized in light of the fact the other spouse is living in the residence but not contributing to the mortgage?

What if a party’s parents gave them a large sum to contribute to the down payment on the marital residence and now the parties are divorcing—is that payment lost? Does the party get credit even though it was from a family member and not from them?

What if one party put down all of the down payment of the house and the money used was earned before marriage–does the party that made the house down payment get credit? 

What if my spouse owned a house prior to marriage, but the mortgage continued to be paid after marriage?

My spouse and her mother share a checking account. Is this account part of the community property in a California divorce?

What about infidelity? What effect does my spouse’s infidelity have on the community property aspect of the case?

What happens to our retirement accounts and 401ks in a divorce?

Mr. Gentry will explain the relevant law in your particular case. He will give you options regarding how to proceed with community property division. Once you have made your decisions, Galen will accomplish your goals. Mr. Gentry will provide the legal guidance you need to protect your rights and secure a fair property settlement when your marriage ends.

Knowledgeable counselor advises on questions regarding marital property

Galen Gentry gives clients comprehensive information concerning the division of assets and debts in a divorce. Items that can be considered property include:

  • Real Estate, cars, boats, clothing, furniture, art, jewelry, valuables
  • Copyrights, patents, trademarks, apps, Instagram influencer, YouTube content producer, tiktok influencer
  • Bank accounts, stocks, life insurance that has cash value
  • Businesses, S Corporations, C Corporations, Sole Proprietorships, Limited Liability Companies
  • Retirement Accounts such as 401ks, Roth IRAs, IRAs and Pensions

There are items that are not considered community property for the purposes of division following a divorce. These may include:

  • Assets acquired before marriage —Community property law does not apply to inheritances and property acquired before the marriage and kept separate during the marriage — for example, funds from a trust that was left to you from your mother’s estate and that you kept in a separate bank account from your spouse or domestic partner throughout the entire duration of the marriage or partnership.
  • Items covered by prenuptial agreements — Couples with prenuptial agreements can avoid community property division by setting forth their own terms in writing before marrying or entering into a domestic partnership.
  • Mixed community and separate property — commingling — It can be difficult to distinguish between community property and separate property. The most common problem is with pension plans. If a pension plan or retirement account was started before the marriage and contributions continue to be made to it throughout the marriage or partnership, it can be difficult to divide. In this example, the contributions are separate property while contributions made during the marriage are considered community property. Galen can explain how such gray areas are handled under California law.

Galen Gentry delivers advice and explanations you can understand. Once you understand your rights and obligations and how the law applies to your situation you can make informed decisions.

Contact a caring California community property attorney

Galen Gentry guides divorcing clients in California through community property division. Call at (310) 282-7521 or contact me online for a free virtual consultation.