Understanding 50/50 In A California Divorce

Serving Clients Throughout Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Napa Counties

You’ve likely heard that California is a 50/50 state. This is true; it is. Eight other states are too. But what does this mean? It comes down to the standard regarding how community property gets divided between spouses. Furthermore, states will differ on how they deem things to be “community property.” States can fall into two different categories:

  1. Community property states
  2. Equitable distribution states

In an equitable distribution state, assets might not get split equally. If you earned it, you would keep it. Some people might argue that this is most fair for each spouse. Others would say that one spouse supported the other so he or she could go out and earn enough to pay for the house, the car, et cetera.

Community property states have the opposite view. Marriage takes two people and merges them into one. They contributed equally, and therefore they have equal claim over the assets acquired during the marriage. This extends to debt too. Both parties took it on; both are responsible for it.

Is Everything Divided?

People may assume that everything you own gets lumped together and split into two equal shares. This is not entirely true or accurate. Only marital assets get divided equally.

This pertains to any assets obtained during the lifespan of the marriage. Did you buy a home when you were married? Then that property is considered community. Did you own a home before you were married? Then that will not be divided.

Other things that are not community property:

  • Gifts you or your spouse received
  • Inheritances
  • Anything acquired after the divorce


Only by talking to a family law attorney will you get specific advice for your unique situation. Divorce, even inside a community property state, can get muddled and confusing. Is your pension community or separate? What about Social Security? Both are earned during a marriage but get used after it is over.

Prenuptial agreements can determine which assets go where. Two people going through a divorce may develop their plan for who gets which asset.

These agreements will be reviewed to ensure that one person is not left with anything.

Carroll Law Office

If you are considering a divorce, contact the experienced attorneys at the Carroll Law Office to schedule your free consultation. Your situation and needs are unique, and our approach will be as well.

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