I'm supposed to read the Community Property mini-outline for class tomorrow. Community Property was one of two bar classes I didn't take in law school (which was a good move, considering it's one of three "weeder" subjects on the California bar). The mini-outline is only 21 pages long, but it's reading like The Secret Sharer - each page seems like ten pages and none of it makes any sense.
It looks to be a lot of disjointed rules that came out of various court holdings in which the judge was more concerned with "doing equity" that creating a body of law that would be at all clear to hapless law students and lawyers (I'm looking at you, O'Connor). The only underlying theme that I can seem to pick out is (1) family courts' latent hostility toward husbands/paternalistic imperative to protect wives + (2) traditional presumption that the husband has more traceable assets = (3) a general sense of screwage for any spouse who brings separate property to the marriage. Community Property is also nice in that it operates in the negative, like common law marriages. It's all about the status of property when two people are married, but it only matters when those people stop being married.
I'm pretty sure it's not just me thinking that it's overly complicated, however. Usually a mini-outline of around 21 pages means one day of lecture. But we have two days of hearing about Community Property. So hopefully everyone else will be as confused as I am.
On a related note, here's a little nugget from last week's Professional Responsibility Lecture. The ABA Ethical Rules prohibit contingency fees in divorce proceedings. So a divorce lawyer can't take his fee as any percentage of the property settlement he gets for his client. California has not adopted this rule, however, and a divorce lawyer in California can take a contingency fee as long as the fee doesn't encourage the break-up of an otherwise salvable marriage. Good to know.