Rumor has that Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony did not sign any prenuptial agreements prior to their marriage. Now that they’re breaking up, at least one commentator has recommended that J Lo file for divorce in New York, rather than California.

That’s because New York does not recognize the community interest in marital property the way we do in California. In New York, the judge is empowered to divide all marital property (property acquired during the marriage) according to a set of factors in their domestic relations laws. In New York, “marital property shall be distributed equitably between the parties considering the circumstances of the case and of the respective parties.”

Jennifer Lopez may like this, because she can argue that what she has worked and strived for during the marriage really should belong to her. However, in a California divorce, all effort that was exerted to create income or property during the marriage is considered community property.

California community property is a concept embraced by a minority of states, based on the concept that although married partners have different roles in the marriage, the contributions of each are of equal value. Thus, community property is divided equally. The analysis of whether a piece of property, whether a car or home, is community property rests on whether it was acquired by means of effort during the marriage.

For example, if one spouse brings a valuable home into the marriage, but after the date of marriage pays down the mortgage with his salary, the community will acquire an interest in that home which will have to be divided at the time of divorce. The community’s interest is equal to the amount of value contributed to that home’s equity due to husband’s efforts during the marriage, which are considered community property. It matters not that wife was a stay-at-home mom during the marriage and did not contribute her earnings. Husband’s effort during the marriage is considered as producing community property.

This goes for all property acquired during the marriage, including jewelry, cars, bank accounts or stock options. If you divorce in a California court, everything you have learned or acquired during the marriage belongs have to your spouse, and every obligation ordered that you acquire, with some exceptions, is owed by your spouse.

Hoping this post sheds light on the nature of California community property, I remain…

Very truly yours,

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