What is the theory behind community property?

Most states in this country do not use the community property system for dividing marital property. However, nine states, including California, do use this system for division of assets after a couple has filed for divorce. What does community property mean for a couple divorcing in California, and what is the underlying theory that the system is built on?

The main analogy that can be used to help define community property is the partnership between two people, which also helps define a marriage. The theory behind community property is that each spouse has contributed important things, such as labor or capital, to the benefit of the marriage. Thus, each spouse is entitled to share equally in the profits of the partnership. As a result of this theory, each spouse is generally assumed to have a 50 percent interest in the community property of the marriage.

This interest holds even though one or the other spouse may have acquired the community property. While spouses in community property states, such as California, Arizona and Nevada, are still able to have separate or non-marital property, the law in these states typically doesn't favor this. Still, there may be separate property that is owned and controlled solely by one spouse.

In community property states, spouses share debts as well as interests in marital property. State law dictates how creditors can approach community property regarding debts incurred by one spouse or by both spouses. A skilled family law attorney can help either party to a divorce understand California's system of dividing property and revealing responsibility for debts incurred during a marriage.