In United States divorces, there are two methods of distributing property: equitable distribution and community property. While the majority of states use the equitable distribution model, California is one of a handful of states that uses the community property model.
What is “community property” exactly? It refers to everything that a married couple owns together, such as everything the couple acquired or bought during their marriage, but it also includes all debt acquired during the marriage. However, a gift or inheritance does not count as community property and they are not divided in a California divorce.
Community Property Includes Individual Earnings
Community property includes everything the spouses acquired during their marriage, but it also includes each spouse’s individual earnings and everything they bought with their earnings. If you’re wondering if something in particular is community property, what you can do is look at the source of the money that was used to purchase it.
Was the item purchased with money that either of your earned during your marriage? If so, the property is “community” and belongs to you and your spouse equally. For example, let’s say you bought yourself a motorcycle. You set aside $500 every month from your paycheck until you could buy the motorcycle in cash. The motorcycle belongs to you and your spouse, even though the entire motorcycle was paid for with your earnings.
Community Property Includes Debts
In California, community property includes all of the debts a married couple accumulates during their marriage, regardless of who incurred the debt. So, if your spouse has a credit card in their name alone and they racked up thousands in debt for things they wanted to buy, but didn’t really need, you’re still on the hook for the debt just as much as they are.
“In California, each spouse or partner owns one-half of the community property. And, each spouse or partner is responsible for one-half of the debt. Community property and community debts are usually divided equally, states the California Courts.