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Understanding Separate Property in California

For many couples, property division is one of the most stressful and contentious parts of their divorce. California is a community property state, which means that everything that the couple acquires during the course of their marriage is subject to division by the courts in the event of a divorce. However, there are exceptions made for "separate property." Clients who are concerned with particular assets when facing a divorce are always curious to know: what is separate property and how can an asset be established as "separate."

The laws concerning separate property in California are pretty straightforward. First and foremost, any property that either spouse acquired before a marriage is considered and will not be divided. Additionally, there are a number of other types of assets that are shielded from property division.

Separate property also includes:

  • Inheritance to either spouse
  • Gifts specifically to either spouse
  • Profits or other assets earned from separate property

So, for instance, if a wife is passed an inheritance during a marriage and uses part of that inheritance to purchase a car, neither the car nor the remaining inheritance will be subject to future property division.

Commingling Property

In some cases, separate property is harder to establish. Some assets can start off as separate and then later become shared (or vice versa). This is called commingling. Commingling is common with real estate and pensions. In these cases, the court will have final say on how to divide the assets, but it is also critical that you and your counsel raise the appropriate facts and circumstances surrounding these assets so that an appropriate and fair division is made.

When these gray areas appear during the property division process, or you must petition to establish a particular asset as separate property, it is crucial to have proven representation by your side. At my firm, Kevin B. Gibbs, APLC, I have been helping individuals, couples, and families enter new stages of their lives with the resources they need for more than 20 years. Clients who choose my firm gain the knowledge and insight of a board-certified family law specialist and can rest assured that their interests will be protected and that their legal goals will diligently pursued.

When it comes to you and your family's future, never compromise. Contact my firm today to start exploring your legal options.