| Read Time: 3 minutes | Divorce

California is a community property state. You may have heard that community property states require you to split property 50/50 if you get divorced. Is everything split 50/50 in a divorce in California? While the law directs courts to split property equally, there are circumstances where property is divided differently.

If you need help getting divorced in California, contact the Law Office of Ali Yousefi, P.C. today. We offer diligent, compassionate legal services from an attorney with the education and proven record to guide you where you need to be.

What Is Community Property?

In California, the law directs the courts to divide the community estate of a married couple equally upon divorce. So what is a 50/50 split in a divorce? To understand a 50/50 split divorce in California, you need to identify which property is part of the community estate and which is separate. Splitting 50/50 means each spouse gets half of the total community estate, not necessarily half of each asset.

Nearly all property you acquire during a marriage while maintaining your primary residence in California is community property. You can also hold quasi-community property—property you acquired outside the State of California that, but for where you acquired it, would be community property. The community estate includes community and quasi-community property.

What Does Community Property Include?

Community property may include a broad range of assets, like:

  • Real estate,
  • Personal property,
  • Salaries and wage earnings,
  • Investment income,
  • Intellectual property,
  • Retirement benefits, and
  • Other financial accounts.

Personal property that belongs to one spouse alone may be considered separate property.

When Is Property Not Acquired “During the Marriage”?

Determining whether you acquired property during your marriage can be complicated while spouses are considering divorce but before it becomes official. Property acquired after your marriage’s “date of separation” is generally separate. The date of separation occurs when:

  • There is a final and complete breakdown of the marriage,
  • At least one spouse has expressed their intention to end the marriage to the other, and
  • The spouse acts consistently with that intention.

If the spouses disagree about the date, a court can decide it.

What Is Separate Property?

Separate property is typically: 

  • Owned before marriage,
  • Gifted to one individual spouse, or
  • Obtained through inheritance.

Rents and profits from separate property are separate as well.

When Does Separate Property Become Community Property?

You convert separate property into community property or vice versa by transmutation. You can only transmute real or personal property through writing, but you can transmute other property by transfer alone. Your separate property can also become community property if you commingle assets or cannot prove the property is separate.

What Happens to Debts in a Divorce?

Like assets, your debts are subject to a community-separate distinction. Debts are separate when incurred:

  • Before the marriage,
  • For the education or training of one spouse, or
  • After the date of separation for goods or services that are not necessities.

Other debts incurred during the marriage are generally community debts. 

How Do You Split Property in a California Divorce?

So, is everything split 50/50 in a divorce in California? California courts divide the community estate equally—unless the spouses agree otherwise, one of several exceptions applies, a spouse is entitled to reimbursement of certain costs incurred on behalf of the other spouse, or separate debts offset awards.


The courts can deviate from strictly equal property division when:

  • Economic circumstances warrant it to achieve a substantially equal division,
  • One spouse deliberately misappropriates part of the community property,
  • One spouse has a judgment awarding civil damages against the other for domestic violence, and
  • The community property totals less than $5,000 and one spouse cannot be located.

Though limited, these exceptions can be significant, especially when combined with debt offsets and reimbursements.


One spouse may sometimes request reimbursement for:

  • Separate property used to acquire new property, 
  • Improvements to separate property, and
  • Contributions to the other’s education or training.

Reimbursable contributions to acquire new property during the marriage include down payments, financing, and payments on a loan’s principal. Interest and costs paid for maintenance, insurance, or taxes are not reimbursable. These reimbursements do not include interest or changes in monetary value and cannot exceed the property’s current value. 

One spouse’s contributions to the other’s education or training may also be reimbursed if the education or training substantially improves the second spouse’s earning capacity. The court can reallocate reimbursements and debts related to education or training when treating the debts as separate would be unjust, like when:

  • The spouses’ community property substantially benefited from the education,
  • Both spouses incurred relatively equivalent debts and received relatively equivalent benefits related to education, and
  • The education enabled a spouse to support themself.

The courts assume that education one spouse completed more than ten years prior substantially benefited the estate, while more recent education did not. You can offer evidence disproving this assumption.

Getting Divorced in California

If you need a California divorce, contact the Law Office of Ali Yousefi, P.C. We can help you negotiate asset division, guiding you to create an agreement a family court will likely approve, even if not a strict 50/50 split. If your spouse is not the negotiating type, we can help you fight for reasonable property division through divorce mediation, arbitration, or courtroom litigation.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

Author Photo

Attorney Ali Yousefi is the founder of Law Offices of Ali Yousefi, P.C., and has distinguished himself as one of the leading lawyers in California. Ali values that his work allows him to make a direct, positive impact on the lives of people who have experienced stressful or traumatic events.

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