What Is California Community Property in a Divorce?

By Heather Frances J.D.

California is a “community property” state, which means that property acquired during a marriage by California spouses is generally considered the property of both parties and can be divided equally by a California court during a divorce. Debts acquired during the marriage are also considered community property. However, there are exceptions that make certain types of property ineligible for division in a California divorce.

Quasi-community Property

It’s not uncommon for spouses to move into California while married and then get a divorce. Property the spouses acquired while they lived outside of California that would have been considered community property if the spouses lived in California at the time they acquired it is considered quasi-community property. California courts treat quasi-community property like community property, but it is taxed as the separate property of the spouse who acquired it rather than being taxed as community property.

Separate Property

Property owned prior to the marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance during the marriage is considered the separate property of the spouse who acquired it. Typically, separate property is controlled by the spouse who acquired it and is not subject to division upon divorce. Separate property can include items such as real estate, cash, investments or personal property. If a spouse acquires an asset as separate property and uses that asset to purchase another asset, the new purchase is considered separate property since the money used to buy it came from separate property.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More


Separate property can be commingled, or mixed, with community property such that it becomes community property. Thus, spouses who wish to keep their separate property from being divided as community property during a divorce must keep that property separate from community property. For example, if a spouse inherits money during the marriage but combines that money with community money to purchase a piece of real estate, a California divorce court could decide the real estate is entirely community property, and thus, divisible by the court.


In California, the spouse who asserts that a certain item of property is actually separate property has the burden to prove the item is separate. If he can trace the funding for that item back to its original source as separate property, he may succeed in having it treated as separate property. For example, if a vehicle was purchased during the marriage from money a spouse received after selling jewelry he inherited, the vehicle can be considered separate property -- as long as he can prove the source of funding to the court.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Is Inherited Property Subject to Division in a Divorce in Washington State?


Related articles

Tennessee Divorce Law Concerning Inheritance

Tennessee law requires an equitable division of property between two parties in a divorce. However, Tennessee law does not consider all property to be divisible in divorce, including an inheritance, depending on how it was used during the marriage.

Will a Quit Claim Deed Be Reversed by Divorce in Texas?

Texas allows spouses and others to transfer real estate by quitclaim deed, and spouses often make such transfers when they marry. With a quitclaim deed, the transferring spouse grants ownership or partial ownership of the real estate she owns to her spouse but does not guarantee that she actually owns the real estate. If the couple later divorces, the court can divide the property, but does not reverse the previous quitclaim deed.

California Laws for the Protection of Property in Divorces

Married couples often acquire property that is used primarily by one spouse. That spouse may believe that putting his name on the title protects his ownership rights in the event that the relationship deteriorates. However, for divorcing couples in California, title to property bears little relationship to who will receive a particular asset in divorce. But, state law provides for steps that can be taken before and during the marriage to ensure that your property is protected.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Can a Wife Take Assets in a Divorce That Were Owned by the Husband Prior to the Marriage in Ohio?

Ohio courts can divide all types of property in your divorce -- real estate, household furnishings, vehicles and bank ...

Is an Inheritance Received During Marriage Subject to Division?

Spouses who receive an inheritance are entitled to do whatever they please with it while married. This includes sharing ...

Interest Income From Inheritance During Divorce in Arizona

If you received an inheritance before or during your marriage, you may be trying to keep it from being divided in your ...

California Divorce Property Settlement Laws

California is a community property state, meaning a husband and wife each own half of all the property and assets ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED