Unlike most other states, California is a community property state, meaning most assets acquired during a marriage belong to both spouses. Nevertheless, many divorcing couples still have separate property that cannot be considered part of divorce proceedings.
What constitutes separate property?
At the start of the process, both spouses should detail both the community and separate property they own, tasks that are particularly important when dividing assets during divorce. Any assets or property that you owned before your marriage is considered separate property. However, some assets that you may have acquired during the marriage may also be considered separate property if they meet certain requirements. These include:
- Anything purchased with separate funds, such as a bank or investment account, in one spouse’s name only
- Money earned while living in another state
- Gifts or inheritances in which only one spouse is the heir
- Any type of property that, under state law, you and your spouse consented to convert to separate property
You should also note that any debts brought into the marriage that are still valid at the time of the divorce are also considered separate property.
Why you need to take inventory of your separate property
Knowing what property is separate is important for more than high-asset division in divorce. Let’s say that your soon-to-be ex-spouse is charged with something, and the assets during the time you were married could be seized. Your separate property couldn’t be considered part of that.
Of course, knowing the value of your communal and separate property is also essential for a fair division of property, yet the class of some types of property can be confusing. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help clear the confusion and protect your assets in contentious situations.