How to tell if it is community or separate property in your divorce

Posted by Adrian S. Doty, Esq. | Sep 13, 2022 | 0 Comments

When you file for a divorce in California, a big part of the process is dividing property and debts. Property refers to anything you can sell or buy or something that has value.

For some couples, determining what community property is (owned by both spouses and part of the division process) versus separate property (owned by one spouse and not part of the division process) is challenging.

Is it community property?

Usually, community property will be anything you or your spouse earned (or debts you acquired) while you were married and before you separated. In this aspect, the “community” is you and your spouse. It also means the property belongs to both of you equally.

Items that will be considered community property include:

  • Anything you earned while you were married
  • Debt you acquired during the marriage
  • Anything you purchased with the money you earned during your marriage

If you have property you didn't earn (such as inheritances or gifts), it is not considered community property.

Did you account for all the community property in your marriage?

Many couples don't realize that they may have more community property than they realize. For example, pension and retirement plans are considered community property. If your spouse has these accounts, you have a right to receive a portion of the value if any of it was acquired while you were married.

Protecting your rights to fair property division

There's no doubt that a California divorce can be messy and confusing. While this is true, legal resources are available to help ensure you get the community property value you are entitled to. Utilizing these resources is highly recommended to ensure a fair divorce settlement.

About the Author

Adrian S. Doty, Esq.

Adrian Doty is a Senior Associate Attorney at Sunnen Law. Mr. Doty began his legal career working as a civil litigation attorney in Los Angeles before moving to the Bay Area in 2014 where he gained complex civil and family law litigation experience working for one of the largest family law firms.He has experience with a variety of complex Family Law matters, including complex and high-net-worth case matters custody and visitation disputes, contempt and post-judgment enforcement, military-family law issues, and domestic violence restraining orders. Mr. Doty understands how emotionally difficult family law matters can be, which is why he is dedicated to the efficient management of his client's cases. While he always works to achieve settlements through negotiation when possible, he aggressively litigates to protect his clients' interests when necessary. 


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