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Dividing marital property in a divorce settlement is often a daunting and emotional process. If you are like many other people filing for divorce in California, you may have become attached to  property and possessions accumulated throughout the marriage.

According to California Courts, the state is one of few in the nation that follow a community property model when dividing marital assets. This means that all marital property is divided equally in half between you and your spouse. It is important to understand what constitutes marital property so that you can receive everything you are entitled to in the divorce settlement.

What is community property?

Marital or community property is everything acquired during the marriage. This includes family homes, cars, bank account contents and furniture. Yet, there are several items that often get overlooked when it comes time to divide assets. These include the following:

  • Lottery ticket winnings
  • State and federal income tax returns
  • 401k plans, term life insurance policies, stocks and retirement plans
  • Expensive collections, such as classic cars, art, antiques, wine and coins
  • Frequent flier miles and other rewards points
  • Royalties from intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks and copyrights

In addition, any gifts exchanged between you and your spouse is considered marital property. Keep in mind that debt is also marital property and is shared by both spouses in a divorce.

What is separate property?

Not all property is community. If you own separate property, it can stay with you even after the divorce is finalized. This includes a home you had prior to the marriage, inheritance money or gifts given to you by a third-party. In order to stay separate, however, the money and property cannot become combined with marital property.