Community Property

I AM GOING THROUGH A DIVORCE. THE LAWYERS ARE ARGUING ABOUT WHO GETS WHAT PROPERTY, AND ARE CONSTANTLY TALKING ABOUT “COMMUNITY” PROPERTY. WHAT IS THAT?

Community property is pretty much any asset or debt that either spouse acquires, from the date the spouses are legally married, until the date the spouses separate.

Confused? You are not alone. The concept of community property is so confusing, that it often escapes the understanding of lawyers as well as non-lawyers.

This is probably because understanding it requires a journey into a ridiculous fiction called “California Family Law.” In this realm of smoke and mirrors, neither the term “community,” nor the term “property,” mean the same thing they do in the real world.

(1) What is a “Community?”

When two people get married, something in California Family Law goes “POOF!” and the two spouses suddenly disappear. A new and entirely imaginary person appears instead, and replaces both spouses. This new “person” is called the “community.”

The community begins when the marriage begins. It ends basically when the marriage ends, whether by death or divorce.

Notwithstanding that the community is entirely mythical, the law in many ways treats it as if it were a real person. Herein lies the ridiculous fiction.

(2) What Is “Property?”

As we travel further into the fiction of California Family Law, we discover that other words also have new or twisted meanings. For example, “property” refers not only to assets, but also to debts.
Fortunately, the words “assets” and “debts” still appear to retain the meaning they have in the real world. Assets still include such things as: money; real estate; personal items; and, just about any other right, option or thing that can be bought and sold. Debts still include such things as: outstanding loans; duties to perform under a contract; and, any other legally recognized obligation.

(3) Okay, so what is “Community Property?”

After the spouses are legally married, if one of the spouses acquires an asset, … Oops! That would be impossible, of course, because the “spouse” no longer legally exists. Only the community exists. Therefore, if either spouse acquires an asset, only the community, not the spouse, legally acquires the asset.

The same rule applies to debts or obligations acquired by a spouse. Since the spouse no longer legally exists, the community, not the spouse, legally acquires the debt or obligation.


CRAIG A. CANDELORE is the managing attorney at the Men’s Legal Center.


The above article is intended for informational purposes only, and is not to be construed as legal advice for any purpose. Due to the intense personal nature of any legal issue, it is important that you consult with appropriate legal counsel to ensure your issues are addressed appropriately.

When CPS comes calling

MY CHILD FELL OFF OF A SWING, AND GOT A LONG GASH OVER HIS RIGHT EYE. OBVIOUSLY,  I IMMEDIATELY TOOK MY CHILD TO THE DOCTOR. AT  3:00 A.A. THE NEXT MORNING, A SOCIAL WORKER AND TWO POLICE OFFICERS MADE AN UNANNOUNCED VISIT TO OUR HOME.  THEY ACCUSED ME OF ABUSING MY CHILD AND, EVEN THOUGH THEY HAD NO WARRANT, THEY TOOK MY CHILD AWAY.  THIS IS THE FIRST OF THREE QUESTIONS I HAVE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

AS YOU CAN IMAGINE, I AM HELL-BENT ANGRY, FRIGHTENED AND CONFUSED, I HAVE THE FOLLOWING QUIESTIONS:l

(1) CAN THE COUNTY DO THAT? EVEN WITHOUT A WARRANT?

Unfortunately, yes.
Even if the county has nothing more than a mere “reasonable cause for believing” that your child is at risk, the county can: (1) seize your child: (2) without a warrant; (3) without warning; and, (4) at any time of the day or night.

(2) HOW MUCH “CAUSE” IS ENOUGH TO BE “REASONABLE CAUSE FOR BELIEVING” A CHILD IS AT RISK?

Very little.

Children can be seized, based on nothing more than the unsubstantiated statements of a disgruntled neighbor or relative. Indeed, such allegations are becoming increasingly popular among separated parents, as a tool to deprive custody to one of the parents, at county expense.

Further, various professionals, including health care providers and school teachers, are required to report any basis for suspecting that a child may be at risk. They face severe legal consequences if they fail to report. Hence, when in doubt, they have substantial motive to err on the side of caution.

Therefore, you and your child risk an unpleasant visit from the county, every time: (1) your child visits the doctor or goes to school with any kind of bruise or injury; and, (2) every time you have in your life a disgruntled neighbor, relative, or co-parent.

(3) WHAT REMEDIES DO I OR MY CHILD HAVE, IF MY CHILD IS WRONGFULLY SEIZED?

Probably none.

The county is virtually immune from lawsuit in this situation. And, therefore, virtually immune from accountability.

(4) SO, WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN THE COUNTY COMES KNOCKING?

Cooperate fully.

As suggested above, the county has vast power to take your child away, and virtually no accountability. Hence, resistance is futile.

And probably counterproductive. When government workers have this much unbridled power, opposing them is unlikely to get any favors from them. Indeed, some forms of resistance will be an invitation to the county to send badges and guns to come take you away, as well.

Your best bet, therefore, is unfettered cooperation while the county is present. And an immediate phone call to your lawyer thereafter.


CRAIG A. CANDELORE, the author, is a California Certified Family Law Specialist attorney who has been practicing law since 1986.


The above article is intended for informational purposes only, and is not to be construed as legal advice for any purpose. Due to the intense personal nature of any legal issue, it is important that you consult with appropriate legal counsel to ensure your issues are addressed appropriately.

Support without Court Order

Question: I am an active duty Navy and I recently moved out of the house. We have two kids. We have not started court proceedings. I don’t have a court order for support but I have been giving her money. She is complaining it is not enough. She has also complained to my command. What should I be paying her?

ANSWER: First, you have a duty of support of your dependents. In the absence of a Family Court order for a specific support amount, or without a signed agreement between you and your wife, the NAVY has guidelines as to what is the appropriate amount of support.

According to the NAVY guideline, you should be paying your Wife and 2 minor children 3/5 of your gross pay.

Gross pay includes your base pay and your housing allowance. Your gross pay does not include sea pay, hazardous duty pay or basic allowance for subsistence.

This amount is not an absolute amount. The amount can be more or less depending on your particular circumstances. If you are paying the mortgage or your Wife’s car payments, the command may allow you to pay less.

The best advice is to set up an appointment with your local Legal Assistance Office.


CRAIG A. CANDELORE, the author, is a California Certified Family Law Specialist attorney who has been practicing law since 1986.


The above article is intended for informational purposes only, and is not to be construed as legal advice for any purpose. Due to the intense personal nature of any legal issue, it is important that you consult with appropriate legal counsel to ensure your issues are addressed appropriately.