After both spouses’ property has been categorized as separate or community property, each spouse is typically awarded their own separate property and a just and right division of the community property occurs.
However, this doesn’t mean the community property is split 50-50 or according to each spouse’s proportionate contribution to the acquisition of the community property. The just and right division isn’t a math problem that can be balanced out.
Instead, the just and right division takes account of each spouses relative earning potential, skills, knowledge, education, and training and strives to ensure that each spouse receives an amount of the community property that is equal in light of these considerations.
While it’s certainly possible, and not uncommon, for the just and right division to be moderately even, it’s also possible, and not uncommon, for the just and right division to award a greater share of the community property to one spouse instead of dividing the property equally. All divorce horror stories aside, the goal here is to divide the property in a way that achieves fairness after considering the past, present, and future circumstances and realities of both spouses. If an equal division of property would leave one spouse at a significant disadvantage after the divorce relative to the other spouse, then how can it be said that fairness was achieved just because the numbers say so after an even division property? Such a division would not be just and right in the eyes of the courts.
In an effort to prevent unequal distributions of community property that aren't just and right, whenever unequal divisions of community property are made there must be an explanation from the court explaining the distribution. Part III of this blog post discusses some of the more common justifications for unequal divisions of community property that are just and right.