During marriage, you no doubt shared things with your spouse. You may have shared a vehicle, for instance, or a jointly held bank account. In fact, it’s common in marriage for spouses to share most everything. When you filed for divorce in a California court, however, you activated a process wherein all of your marital property must be divided between you and your ex.

California is a community property state. This means that it operates under property division guidelines that basically state that all marital assets and liabilities are to be split 50/50 between spouses in a divorce. There are several categories of property that may be relevant to your circumstances.

Community property is equally owned

When you married your spouse, you technically became a “community” under state law. From that moment on, any money or property either of you acquired during marriage would be categorized as community property if you were ever to divorce.

Any debt that either you or your spouse has incurred during marriage is also equally owned as part of your “community.” This would include an unpaid balance on a credit card, a mortgage on your house, a car loan, etc.

Do you own any property separately from your spouse?

Even in a state that uses community property guidelines in divorce, it’s possible that you might have assets that are not co-owned by your spouse. For instance, perhaps you owned apartment space before you got married and continued to collect rental contracts on it after your wedding day. Another example might be a gift or inheritance that you received that was specifically designated to you and you alone.

Keeping in mind that debts are considered property in a divorce, you or your ex may also have a liability that is categorized as separate property, such as a credit card balance that was incurred after you legally separated.

California law also addresses quasi-community property

If either you or your spouse acquired income or property while residing in another state during marriage that would be categorized as community property under California guidelines, it is referred to as quasi-community property.

Perhaps you and your spouse moved to another state for a time while you were still married. Any income that either of you earned or assets you acquired that would be community property in California may be subject to those same guidelines in a divorce if you have filed your petition to divorce in this state.

Protect your interests to ensure a fair settlement

If you and your ex get along well, you may be able to peacefully negotiate a fair settlement in accordance with California divorce laws. Spouses who are unable to achieve an agreement on their own often use litigation to resolve property issues. In such cases, a family court judge would review all pertinent information, then determine how all marital property should be distributed between both spouses.