Division of Property – Federal Law

In the United States of America, federal property laws may affect you when you are dividing property pursuant to a divorce or legal separation.  The California Family Code dictates the law in regard to divorces and legal separations. However, it is important to note that because the California Family Code is state law, it may be preempted by federal law—meaning that the federal law will govern how certain property will be divided in your divorce or legal separation. Call one of our  Division of Property lawyers who can explain to you  federal law and division of property during a divorce or legal separation.

The following property is subject to federal law:

Federal Savings Bonds

Federal savings bonds must be treated as the separate property of the person whose name the bonds are registered to, regardless if the federal savings bonds were purchased during the marriage with community funds. But, if one spouse, without the consent of the other spouse, transfers community funds into federal savings bonds that are registered only in the purchasing spouse’s name, then the transfer is considered a breach of fiduciary duty and may require the federal savings bonds to be characterized as community property.

Military Insurance Policies

Military insurance policies under the National Service Life Insurance Act  (NSLIA) and the Service members Group Life Insurance Act (SGLIA) programs are the separate property of the veteran spouse who is insured, regardless if community funds were used for the insurance premium payments. Further, the insurance veteran has the sole discretion to designate the beneficiary of his or her policy proceeds.

Federal Employee Benefits

Our Orange County Division of Property lawyer explains federal law and division of property during a divorce

California Family Code may be preempted by federal law. 

Federal employee benefits are protected by federal law where a community property claim has been brought against the benefit.

However the federal employee benefits are protected to the extent the conflicting community property law would cause serious impairment to substantial federal interests. Thus, Orange County family law courts may apply community property law to a spouse’s federal employee benefits if the result of such application does not frustrate the objectives of the federal legislation.

Military Retirement Pay and Civil Service Pensions

Military retirement pay and civil service pensions are governed by federal law. But the preemption of state community property law on military retirement pay and civil service pensions has been abolished. Thus, now Orange County family law courts have the ability to divide military retirement pay and civil service pensions like any other community property.

Social Security Benefits in California

Social security benefits are protected by the Social Security Act. These benefits must be treated as the separate property of the spouse whose social security benefits they belong to.

Veteran’s Disability Benefits in California

Veteran’s disability benefits cannot be divided as community property by the  family law courts. But once a benefit has been paid to the veteran spouse, the benefit is subject to community property law and can be divided in your divorce or legal separation.


A spouse’s interest in a copyright is not protected by federal law. The California family law courts can recognize, divide and enforce community property interests of a spouse’s copyright.

Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Pensions

Although an ERISA pension is regulated by the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (the “Act”), California community property law is not preempted by the Act to the extent that the community property law recognizes a community interest in the ERISA pension. Thus, the pension can be considered community property in your divorce or legal separation.

California Division of Property Lawyer

Wallin & Klarich division of property attorneys

Our team of family attorneys is here to help. Call Wallin & Klarich today.

If you have any of the above referenced property, regardless if it was acquired during your marriage or not, it is crucial that you retain an experienced Division of Property lawyer from Wallin & Klarich to help ensure your marital property rights are protected. Our skilled  family law attorneys can provide you with the best legal representation possible.

 With offices located in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego,  Victorville, West Covina, Sherman Oaks, Torrance and Ventura , there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney available wherever you happen to live. We will get through this together.

Call us today at (888) 749-7428 or fill out our online consultation form to get in contact with a legal professional today.

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