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Welcome to California Community Property

A survey of California’s community-property laws. Topics covered include the formation and features of the marital economic community, the characterization of property owned by married couples, the rights and obligations of spouses regarding property, and


Welcome to California Community Property! Designed for second- and third-year law students, this course features six chapters with 23 video lessons. The course introduces the basics of California community property law, exploring spouses’ property rights both during marriage and when marriage ends.

Chapter one is all about the nature of property in the marriage context. It first addresses how a marital economic community arises and the requirements for a valid marriage. It then explores the property implications of marriage, focusing on the key distinction between separate property, which is property owned by one spouse, and community property, which is property owned by both spouses. Finally, it looks at the methods courts use to characterize property as either separate or community.

Chapter two expands on characterization, providing an overview of characterization rules applicable to specific types of property. The types of property addressed are those commonly held or acquired by spouses during marriage, including wages, retirement benefits, marital homes, and business interests.

Once you have a firm grasp on how to characterize property, you’ll study how characterization of property as separate or community impacts spouses’ property rights, first during marriage and then when a marriage ends. Chapter three covers management, control, and liability during marriage. It first addresses each spouse’s rights regarding community property, including the right to transfer property to third parties. It then explores spouses’ obligations, looking at the fiduciary duties that spouses owe each other, as well as liability for debts incurred by a spouse before or during marriage.

Chapter four explores spouses’ options for modifying community property rules. The default rules are largely statutory, coming from the California Family Code. But because they are default rules, spouses may agree to modify them, choosing different rules to govern their rights during marriage and upon divorce. The chapter covers two means of doing so, namely premarital agreements and transmutation agreements.

Chapter five explores what happens to property when a marriage ends, whether because of dissolution or death. It first provides an overview of the dissolution process and the impact of separation on spouses’ property rights. It then looks at how assets and debts are divided between spouses upon dissolution and the circumstances in which a spouse may seek post-dissolution financial support. Finally, the chapter addresses the treatment of assets and debts if a marriage ends with a spouse’s death.

After you’ve explored the rights and obligations associated with marriage, chapter six wraps up the course by introducing some nonmarital relationship types that have implications for property rights. First, the chapter addresses registered domestic partnerships, which are another type of legally recognized relationship governed by statute. Second, it explores void and voidable marriages, which are purported marriages that, for some reason, fail to meet the requirements for a valid marriage. And third, the chapter addresses Marvin relationships, a judicially recognized type of relationship that offers some protection to long-term, cohabiting partners who never marry or register as domestic partners.

By the end of this course, you’ll be well versed in California’s community property laws and will have looked at many examples of how they apply, equipping you to confidently tackle fact patterns that might arise in your exams or your future practice.