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What is separate property?

When you file for divorce in California, there are a number of issues that must be negotiated when drafting the final divorce settlement. One of the most difficult may be that of property division and determining who gets what after the divorce is finalized. California is a community property state, meaning all marital property is divided equally in half between the parties. Yet, not all property is considered community. There may be some property and assets that stay in the possession of the original owner in the settlement. This is referred to as separate property.

There are several pieces of property that may be considered separate, including any gifts given to you by a third-party during the divorce. If you received inheritance property and/or money before, during or after the divorce, that is also considered separate property.  Furthermore, if you owed property prior to getting married, and kept the original title solely in your name, it may remain with you after the divorce is finalized. Separate property also includes any personal injury compensation or money awarded to you in a case where you were injured.

In some cases, separate property may turn into marital property and then become eligible for division. For example, if separate money is deposited into a bank account under both party’s names, it may become marital property. Furthermore, if the title of a home is updated to include the name of the other spouse, it may be thought of as marital property as well. Only separate property that stays in the name of the original owner is free from division during the divorce process.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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