What are Community Property and Debts? – and What are Separate Property and Debts?

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A marriage or the registration of a domestic partnership makes two people one legal "community."  When the marriage or domestic partnership is dissolved, separating the property of that legal "community" can be complicated. The following are a few definitions offered to help you sort it out. 

  • "Community Property" generally is property owned in common by the two people because they bought it while they were married or in a registered domestic partnership. In California, each  spouse or partner owns one-half of this property (unless one of them got the property as a gift or  inheritance).
  • Similarly, "Community Debts" generally are financial obligations accumulated during the marriage or domestic partnership. Again, each spouse or partner is responsible for one-half of this debt.
  • "Separate Property" generally is property one spouse or partner owned/earned before he or she got married or registered a domestic partnership, or acquired during marriage or domestic partnership through inheritance or gift from someone else, or property acquired after separation.
  • Similarly, "Separate Debts" generally are financial obligations accumulated before the marriage or registration of the domestic partnership, or after the separation.

Normally, separating couples can work out a division of property that they both feel
is fair.

If you have a question about whether some asset is community property, separate property, or mixed, please consult a lawyer for advice.  The same is true if you are unsure about how a debt should be paid. 

  • For help in getting low-cost legal aid, click here. Sobre Ventanillas Nuevas






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