Family Law

Family Law News Issue 1, 2021, Volume 43, No. 1

Division of Community Property in a Default Judgment

Janet Frankel, CFLS

Janet Frankel is the Child Support Commissioner in the Marin County Superior Court. Commissioner Frankel is a Certified Family Law Specialist and an Adjunct Professor at San Francisco Law School (Community Property Law and Mediation Law). Prior to her appointment to the bench, Commissioner Frankel had her own family law and mediation practice in San Francisco.

What happens to community property when a respondent fails to respond? Will a default judgment simply grant petitioner all of the relief requested? Are there restrictions regarding the division of community property in a default judgment?

Unless the parties agree in writing or on the record in open court, the court must divide all community property equally, or substantially equally.1 If mathematical equality is not possible, the division should at least be "substantially equal."2 In-kind division is preferred, but not required. "Where economic circumstances warrant, the court may award an [entire] asset of the community estate to one party … to effect a substantially equal division of the community estate."3 Upon good cause shown that "the interests of justice require an unequal division," the court has the discretion to make an unequal division.4

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