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California Legal Divorce Terms from A to Z

California is a community property state. You’ve probably heard that many times as you have been learning about divorce in California. But what does “community property” mean, and why do you need to know? There are a lot of terms that may be new to you as you proceed with your California divorce. Below is a brief list of terms that you are likely to encounter. If you have questions about these terms, or if you are initiating a divorce or responding to divorce papers filed by your spouse, contact a knowledgeable and experienced California divorce lawyer for advice and immediate assistance.

Community Estate – All of the marital property to be divided in the property settlement. Includes both community property and quasi-community property.

Community Property – All real or personal property, wherever it is located, which was acquired by either spouse during the marriage while they were domiciled in California. See also Quasi-Community Property.

Date of Separation – The date when the marital relationship can be said to be completely and finally broken. This may be the date when one spouse expressed the intent to divorce by words or conduct. The date of separation is important for calculating support and separating community property from separate property. If the parties disagree on the date of separation, the issue may need to be litigated.

Family Support – When child support and spousal support are combined into one payment, without distinguishing how much money is designated for each type of support. This may be done for tax purposes.

Income and Expense Declaration – Each party must make financial disclosures in the initial stages of the divorce to assist the court in making orders of child and spousal support.

Property Declaration – This form must be completed by the parties to aid the judge in dividing community property.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order – A court order directing a plan administrator to divide one spouse’s benefits between both divorcing spouses according to the terms of the order. Applies to defined contribution plans, such as a 401(k) or profit-sharing plan, as well as defined benefit plans, such as pensions and retirement plans, which are governed by ERISA. Often abbreviated QDRO (and pronounced QUAD-RO).

Quasi-Community Property – All real or personal property, whether located in California or elsewhere, which was acquired by either spouse while they were domiciled outside of the state, but which would have been community property had it been acquired while the person was domiciled in the state. Any property which was exchanged for such property is also quasi-community property.

Petitioner – The person filing for the divorce. May also be known as the plaintiff.

Respondent – The person responding to a divorce petition filed by a spouse. May also be known as the defendant.

Separate Property – All property owned by a spouse before the marriage. Also includes property acquired by the spouse during marriage, if it was acquired through a gift, bequest, devise or descent (inheritance). Profits made off of separate property are also separate property.

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