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2024 Who Gets the House in a Divorce in California?

By Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP | Nov 19, 2023

The largest asset most divorcing couples have to divide is a house. There are a few options for how a house is typically handled in a divorce, depending on what the parties are seeking and what other assets are involved. A California divorce lawyer can be critical to helping you determine the options available and ensuring your house is handled properly throughout the divorce process.

Who Gets the House in a Divorce in California?

In a California divorce, a house is often the most valuable item that needs to be addressed in the process of property division. California is one of nine states that operate under community property rules, meaning all of the community (marital) property in a divorce must be split 50/50. Most states follow rules of equitable division, meaning many factors are considered in the division of property, and an equal split is not required.

Community property rules should be adhered to regardless of the reason for the divorce and regardless of the financial circumstances of both divorcing spouses. The property that must be divided is the marital or community property, not separate property. Separate property is generally that which was owned before the marriage or was gifted or inherited.

There are some circumstances in which this may apply to a house. If your house is considered your separate property, it is exclusively yours, and you can choose to keep it or sell it. However, in most cases, a house will not fall into the community category, which means it will be subject to a 50/50 split.

It’s important to note that the rules for the 50/50 split are based on value, so this does not mean that every item must be split exactly down the middle, but rather that the total value of the community property must be evenly split. Generally, this leaves three primary options for dividing a house in a California divorce.

Selling the Marital Home

In most cases, the most practical way to divide a house is for it to be sold. Then, the proceeds must be divided between the two parties. If neither party wants to keep the house, or if they don’t want to give up enough value elsewhere to make things even, then the house will likely be sold.


In some cases, one of the spouses may want to keep the house. If that’s the case, it is possible for them to buy out the other one. They would likely do so by receiving less of the remaining community property so that the total property is still divided evenly.

It’s also possible that they may be able to receive funding to buy out the other spouse in another way, such as through a loan or family member. Arranging something like this often requires that the divorce be a generally amicable process.

Temporary Co-Ownership

Although not common, there are some situations in which a divorcing couple retains co-ownership of a house. This is most common when there are children involved, and the spouses would like the children to have a single residence as a point of stability. The parents then alternate living in the home according to the child custody arrangement.

Typically, this kind of agreement includes plans to sell the home once the children reach a certain age, and the proceeds are then divided equally at that time. While this kind of arrangement may be feasible, it may also be challenging, particularly with regard to things like paying for maintenance.


Q: Is Property Divided in a 50/50 Split in California?

A: Yes, California is one of nine states that operate under community property rules, which state that community property must be evenly divided between divorcing spouses. Furthermore, the reason for divorce, each party’s actions, and the spouses’ financial circumstances should not be considered in property division.

This does not mean that each asset needs to be divided evenly but rather that the overall value of all property should be split equally. However, there are many assets that will need to be sold in the process.

Q: What Is Done With Property That Was Owned Before the Marriage?

A: Property that was owned before the marriage will generally fall into the category of separate property and not be subject to community property rules. This property will belong to whoever owned it before the marriage. When it comes to the property division process, separate property is not taken into consideration regarding how community property is divided. However, it is not uncommon for spouses to dispute whether certain assets should be considered separate property or not.

Q: What Factors Play a Role in Determining Property Division?

A: Because California is a community property division state, the factors involved in property division may be different from those of other states. The primary factor involved is determining which property is considered separate property and which property will be considered community property. Afterward, valuing the community property is important to try to achieve an even split.

Q: Is Property Division Affected by Spousal Support or Child Custody?

A: Under the community property rules that apply to property division in California, the only things that affect the process are how community property and separate property are determined and divided. Generally, this means that things like spousal support and child custody should not and will not play a role in the outcome.

A Divorce Lawyer in Orange County, CA Can Help With Your Divorce

We understand how difficult a divorce can be, and the division of property is one of the most challenging aspects. You and your divorcing spouse have likely acquired many assets, but rarely anything larger and more significant than your house. A California divorce lawyer from Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, can help you understand your options for dividing the home.

Whether you want to keep the house, sell it, or keep it for a short period of time, we can help you achieve the outcome you’re seeking. Contact us today to discuss property division and your divorce.

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