In a California Divorce, property division is based on the concepts of community and separate property. Community property is property that was acquired during marriage by the parties, and is equally split at the time of divorce.
The way to determine if something is part of the community is whether either party acquired it after they were married and before they separated. It does not matter whose name an asset was acquired in, but only whether it was acquired during the marriage.
Some property, even if acquired during marriage, is exempt from being part of the community, and is not divided by the parties. This is called separate property. Any property that a person acquired prior to marriage would be considered separate property. Also, any property acquired through gift or inheritance by a person would be their own separate property, as would any property that they acquire after the spouses’ separation.
Generally speaking, separate property is kept by the spouse whose property it is, and it is not considered in the division of community property. Separate property assets may, though, be a factor in other issues of a divorce, such as spousal support.
The same concept also applies to debt, so both spouses would normally equally be liable for debt acquired during marriage, and debt acquired before marriage or after separation would be separate debt owed by the spouse who incurred it. Because of debt, sometimes a spouse who takes on more debt will be given more property to balance out the actual worth of the assets each party receives.
This is a general overview of the issues of community and separate property in California divorce law, and a family law attorney should be consulted for more detailed and specific information in your particular case.