California is a community property state.  Basically, this means that all property acquired by the two parties of a marriage in California is considered to be community property.

This presumption of community property is based on the premise that each partner to a marriage contributes services of value to the whole, and, with certain limitations and exceptions, both parties share equally in the profits.  So long as a spouse or registered domestic partner is contributing his or her special services to the marital community he or she is entitled to share in its growth and prosperity.

This, in essence, is what the community property system is all about.  And remember that the parties’ respective contribution to the community is what justifies and forms the basis for their joint ownership of the fruits of their respective labors.

California and Washington are the only states in the union that terminate the marital period at the date of separation of the parties, as opposed to the termination of status as a married couple.  This is due to the fact that upon separation, the parties no longer make joint contributions to the community.

Family Code § 771 covers this area:  “…the earnings and accumulations of a spouse and the minor children living with, or in the custody of, the spouse, while living separate and apart from the other spouse are the separate property of the spouse.”  This means that a judgment of dissolution is not necessary to terminate the community.  California case law has defined ‘living separate and apart’ as the parties having come to a parting of their ways with no present intention of resuming their marriage.