It is common knowledge that under California Law, almost all of the assets acquired by a couple between the date of the marriage and the date of separation is considered COMMUNITY PROPERTY. The effect of this characterization is that the couple's community property assets must be equally divided in the divorce judgment. This is usually accomplished by such events as selling a home and dividing the net sale proceeds, or by equally dividing an assets such as a pension account.
Assets that are considered the SEPARATE PROPERTY of a spouse going through a divorce are not subject to the equal division requirement. A separate property asset or debt will be awarded entirely o the spouse that owns that asset.
The most common reason that an assets is considered to be a person's separate property is that he or she owned that asset before the date of marriage. For example, a person buys an item such as a house in 2010. They marry their spouse in 2011. The house is considered the first spouse's separate property due to the fact that the asset was bought prior to the marriage.
This rule is most commonly applied to assets like Pension plans. All the retirement plan contributions that are made before the date of marriage are the separate property of the person who made the contributions. Contributions that are made after the date of marriage are community property. It is very common for a person to have both a separate and community interest in their pension plans.
The other major reason that an asset can be considered separate property is if it is acquired by inheritance. If a married person inherits an asset such as a house, it will be that person's separate property. This rule applies equally to other types of assets such as bank accounts and stock portfolios.
Each person in a marriage should be aware of the character of their assets. Many people have been shocked to find that their comfortable lifestyle during the marriage was actually being supported by the other spouse's separate property assets. These assets will not be divided by the Court in a divorce. Instead, the assets will be confirmed to the person who owns them.