Community Real Property Spouse or Domestic Partner Joint Ownership

California Community Real Property: Spouse or Domestic Partner Joint Ownership

Updated on December 8, 2023

The state of California, with its unique community property laws, presents a distinct legal framework for married couples and domestic partners in managing their real property assets. This guide aims to provide clarity on the rights and responsibilities concerning real property assets for those entering into marriage or domestic partnership in California, particularly in the absence of a prenuptial, post-nuptial, or other contractual agreements. In this blog post, we lay out the basics that govern California marriages for property acquired on or after January 1, 1975:

Community Property Laws in California

The Basics of Community Property

California’s community property statute, effective for property acquired on or after January 1, 1975, establishes that each spouse or domestic partner has equal management and control over community property (Cal. Fam. Code § 1100(a)). Community property includes assets acquired or income earned during the marriage while residing in California (Cal. Fam. Code § 760).

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Equal Management and Control: What It Means

Having equal management and control means that both parties must participate in major decisions affecting the community property. This shared responsibility ensures that each person’s rights are protected in the management of these assets.

Real Property Acquisition and Ownership in Marriage

Default Ownership Rules

In California, real property acquired within the state during the marriage is considered community property. This means both spouses have an undivided ½ interest in such property, regardless of whose name appears on the title or deed.

Alternatives to Community Property Ownership

Couples may opt for different forms of ownership like tenancy in common or joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. However, this intention must be explicitly stated in writing or clearly indicated in the property’s deed or title.

Transactions Involving Community Real Property

During the marriage, both spouses must actively participate in significant transactions involving community real property. This includes leases exceeding one year, sales, and encumbrances, such as mortgages or loans against the property (Cal. Fam. Code § 1102(a)).

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Key Takeaway

Understanding and adhering to California’s community property laws are crucial for couples to manage their real estate assets effectively and avoid future disputes.

Property Division in Divorce and Death

At Divorce

Upon divorce, community real property is typically divided equally between the spouses.

At Death

The rules vary in the event of a spouse’s death. If a spouse dies intestate (without a will), the surviving spouse inherits all the property. If there is a will, the surviving spouse is entitled to half of the deceased’s community property. The designation of “community property with the right of survivorship” allows the surviving spouse to own the property entirely upon the other’s death, independent of other estate provisions.

Legal Expertise in Community Property Disputes and Transactions

Real Estate Attorneys at Schorr Law have extensive experience in resolving disputes and managing transactions involving jointly held real property, including community real property. For expert legal consultation, contact us at [email protected] or call (310) 954-1877.

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See related: Different Partition Action Outcomes


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