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Clarifying Community vs. Separate Property Law Issues

You probably already know that California is a community property state, but do you fully understand how that impacts you? In a nutshell, California law generally provides that any property acquired by a couple after they are married is community property. This means that wages, residence, furniture, vehicles, etc. acquired after marriage are the property of both parties equally. Conversely, the property that each party brings into the marriage is separate property.

The importance of classifying community property vs. separate property is most evident in the divorce process and the resulting property settlement agreement. Attorney Glenn L. Robertson helps clients in Lompoc, Santa Maria and surrounding communities understand the ramifications of California community property laws.

Property owned by a party prior to marriage is separate property and remains separate property after marriage

Separate property also includes:

  • Property inherited by either party either before or after marriage
  • Gifts received individually by a party
  • Proceeds from the rent of separate property
  • Proceeds from the sale of separate property
  • Income earned if the parties are separated
  • Property or items given from one spouse to another with the intention of making it separate property

Why does it matter how property is characterized?

  • During your marriage, both parties have the right to control the community property, and it takes the approval of both parties to dispose of it.
  • If one or both of you incur a debt during the marriage, creditors can only attach the community property to satisfy the debt.
  • If you divorce in California, the property settlement agreement divides community property equitably between your spouse and you.
  • Upon the death of one spouse, the community property passes to the other spouse.

Suppose a husband uses money inherited from a parent to make a down payment on a house in Ventura. The husband and wife contribute equally to the mortgage payment. They divorce and sell the house. How are the proceeds from the sale of the house allocated? Family law attorney Glenn L. Robertson works with clients throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties to analyze marital property issues and address the tax issues. A prenuptial agreement trumps community property laws. Proper documentation of acquisition and disposition of property ensures that the parties’ intentions are clear. Thoughtful estate planning can redistribute community property according to a couple’s wishes.

Contact our Santa Barbara office today for help marital property and avoiding future disputes

Before you take that major step that alters your rights forever, contact Glenn L. Robertson online or call his office at 833-568-3544 for a free initial consultation. Weekend and evening appointments are available upon request.


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