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Division of Property or Debt

Under California law any asset acquired and any debt incurred during the term of the marriage is considered to be a community asset or debt, owned or owed by the community. Ordinarily it does not matter whose name is on the asset or which person incurred the debt. There are some noteworthy exceptions, such as gifts to a third party without the knowledge of the other spouse large gambling debts, or purchases of real property during the marriage without any disclosure to the other spouse. The court must decide whether to assign these debts to the person who incurred the debts.

Although the assets and debts acquired during the marriage are generally community property, the primary exceptions are gifts and inheritances received by one spouse during the marriage. For example, one spouse may inherit a house from parents. That becomes the separate property of the spouse who inherits the house. However, during the marriage, the community may pay for the upkeep of the house, property taxes, and mortgage payments. In that scenario, the community may have a financial interest in the property and a portion of the value of the property would be community property.

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