Who Keeps the Golf Club Membership When You Divorce in California?

Divorce can tear your social life apart. Friends often feel that they have to take sides with one partner or the other, so your social network can decrease quickly. At the time you most need the support of friends and the comfort of a regular routine, you may find yourself forced into unfamiliar surroundings and uncertain of who to turn to vent frustrations or even where to go when you need a break.

When you belong to a country club, that club is often your safe haven. It is the place where everybody knows your name and you can always be certain of a warm welcome and a place to relax. But divorce threatens to take that away, too. What happens to a golf club membership when you divorce in California?

Is the Golf Club Membership Community Property?

A private club membership is a unique resource. As an investment, it is a type of property. But it also includes contractual arrangements that govern its use. And, as noted above, club membership has significant emotional value. Let’s first consider club membership as a type of property that may be subject to division in divorce.

Under the community property rules in California, most property acquired during the course of a marriage is considered marital property, and both spouses have equal ownership rights in it. The exceptions to this rule are inherited property and gifts, which generally belong to the spouse who received them. So if a country club membership was given or bequeathed only to one spouse, that spouse may be able to keep it as their separate property. If it was a joint gift, however, it would be marital property.

Assets owned before marriage are also a spouse’s separate property, but if those assets become commingled with marital property, they can lose their separate character. So if one spouse had the club membership before they got married and paid all dues with money owned before the marriage started, then the value of the club membership might belong solely to that spouse. But if funds earned during the marriage were used to pay dues or assessments, then at least part of the value of the membership becomes community property.

What Do the Club Rules Say?

The discussion about community property refers to the financial value of the membership and whether and how that may need to be allocated in divorce. The question of which spouse gets to remain a member of the club is usually an entirely different issue because it is generally determined by the contractual terms in your agreement with the country club.

For most clubs, even when you hold a family membership, one person is considered the primary member. The rules sometimes specify that in the event of divorce, the primary member has the right to retain the membership. Those rules may allow the other spouse to sign up for a separate membership or they may prohibit another membership. Still other types of club rules may specify that the club will honor the terms of the divorce settlement with respect to continued membership.

It is important to understand that unless the club policies and contractual terms violate the law in some way, they are binding because you agreed to them when you joined the club.

Regardless of the details, in most cases, the spouse who loses the membership often suffers harm financially and emotionally, and this needs to be taken into account in the divorce settlement. Even if that spouse is allowed to join the club on a separate membership, they will usually incur initiation fees, go through a formal approval process, and often be placed on a waitlist. In addition to accounting for the financial losses as part of the divorce settlement, such as membership fees and bond funds, it also may be wise to include a provision specifying that the member spouse will not say or do anything to inhibit the other spouse from joining separately, such as making disparaging comments or voting against their membership.

Details Matter in Divorce

So often, it is the seemingly small issues, such as golf club membership, that cause the most pain in the divorce process. It is important to work with a divorce attorney who is aware of the potential issues and prepared to take the right steps to protect your interests.

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, our Certified Family Law Specialists and associates analyze the full range of issues that could affect your divorce and we develop the most advantageous strategies to ensure that you emerge from the divorce ready to enjoy your best life ahead. To discuss club memberships or other issues that can affect you in divorce, schedule a confidential consultation with our team today.


Professional Legal Help

Our attorneys are waiting to help you

Our Locations

*We do not receive postal correspondence at this address. Please send any desired material to our Corona office for review and distribution.


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.