When people talk about marital property, which will need to be divided when you get divorced in California, they often talk about it in a very general sense. Anything that was purchased or acquired during the marriage is marital property, no matter who bought it, who used it, or who thought of it as theirs. This property will then be split up equally because the court looks at it as having been owned equally.
There are, on occasion, some limits to marital property. These can differ from one case to the next, and the judge may have to make a ruling to determine if something is separately owned or if it is marital property. Three common examples include:
— Property you or your spouse owned before you got married– Inheritance money or other assets given specifically to one of you– Gifts that a third party gave to either party
For example, if a mother passes away and she leaves her daughter a diamond ring that has always been a family heirloom, that may be considered to belong exclusively to the daughter, with her husband having no claim on it. This same thing comes into play when real estate is passed down—such as a vacation cottage in the mountains. Essentially, the court does want to keep family property within that family even after the split, rather than transferring it to the spouse.
Again, all cases are different and a judge can approach these things in different ways, so you need to know what legal options you have as you go to court.