Sometimes it matters, and sometimes it does not. The character of property is just one of many factors the court is to consider. Often, if a fair and equitable division of assets and debts can be achieved without dipping into separate property, by focusing just on community property, then the owner of the separate property will probably get that property back. If a trial court goofs up in determining what is separate and community, the Court of Appeals will probably not overturn the property/debt division if the overall result is fair and equitable. Separate property seems to be awarded back to its owner most often when the marriage is short or the receipt of the property is recent, such as a recent inheritance. If the property is separate, but the couple have used it together for 35 years, it is probably less likely to be treated differently than community property. It is hard to generalize, but it is often worth the effort to identify what is community and separate property.