In states that follow the community property system, community property is any asset that both spouses own together, and both have an equal interest in. Separate property is any property that one spouse owns individually, and that the other spouse does not have an interest in.
The presumption is that all assets acquired during marriage are community property. However, there are several exceptions to the community property presumption.
There are several exceptions to the community property presumption. An asset will be considered the separate property of one spouse if it was:
Gifts can be property that was given to one spouse by the other, or property given to a spouse from anyone else. It will only be considered a gift, however, if it is clear from the actions of the person giving the property that they intended to give a gift to that particular person. If it is a gift, it will be separate property.
Money is considered separate only if it was acquired through one of the exceptions and the other spouse has no access to the money. This money is separate if it is kept in a personal bank account that the other spouse cannot reach. If money that was once separate property has been put into a bank account that both spouses have access to, it is no longer separate property and any items purchased with that money is community property.
In order to be considered living separate and apart, one spouse must have made clear to the other that he or she had no intention of returning to the marriage, and the spouses must actually be living in different places. Anything earned or acquired after this point is separate property.
An attorney will be particularly helpful in advising you as to the status of your property, and can help a great deal in a divorce. If you have any assets and are contemplating divorce, you should contact an attorney to find out what type of ownership you have in those assets.
Last Modified: 06-28-2011 03:13 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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