California Community Property Division Laws
Regardless of where the marriage took place, divorces that are filed in the state of California are governed by the concept known as “community property division.” (Unless a valid prenuptial agreement provides otherwise.) According to California community property law, with only minor exceptions, all assets and debt acquired from the date of marriage until the date of separation are characterized as community property and subject to equal division between both parties of the divorce.
To ensure your personal belongings are protected in the division of your property, contact our Carlsbad property division lawyers at Griffith, Young & Lass. Call 858-951-1526 or submit an online contact form here.
Methods Of Division Of Community Property
Community property and community debt can be divided “in-kind” or not “in kind.” “In-kind” division essentially means that a particular asset and/or debt will be divided down the middle. Obviously, it is not always possible to divide every asset down the middle unless the asset is sold.
It is quite common in divorce cases for the parties to distribute assets according to the interests of the parties and to equalize unequal division with an “equalization payment.” A good example of this would be if one spouse wanted to keep the community residence. Assuming that the residence had equity, the spouse retaining the residence would owe to the “out spouse” an equalization equal to one half the total community interest in the property. This equalization could be traded off against other assets like retirement accounts, investment accounts, or cash on hand.
Separate Property In Divorce
Broadly speaking, assets and debt acquired after marriage are considered community property. However, individuals can retain separate property in a divorce proceeding. The most common example of separate property is assets that an individual owned prior to entering the marriage.
Those assets can include:
- Real estate
- Retirement savings.
Often, assets that were initially separate are comingled during a marriage. For example, a house owned prior to the marriage may be sold and the money used to purchase another house. If there is a clear paper trail, the established value of the initial home can typically be removed from community property.
Two specific types of assets gained during marriage also qualify as separate property in divorce proceedings: gifts and inheritances. For example, if one spouse is given a rare painting or inherits a lump sum of cash, that asset is an individual asset and is retained by the person following a divorce proceeding.
Assessing The Costs Of Complex Property Division
High-asset divorces in California require an evaluation at the outset of the case to determine how much money should be spent in the event that one or more of the issues require litigation in family court. This is important because high-asset divorce cases can become very expensive very fast depending on the attorneys involved and the complexity of the issues.
A good family lawyer will give you realistic expectations and let you know when it is smart to put up a fight and when it is better to concede an issue because the cost of litigation is greater than the potential benefit even considering a good courtroom result. We are those lawyers. At Griffith, Young & Lass, we believe in the responsible and ethical practice of law and our representation will always reflect what’s in your best interests.
Value Of Association Of Experts
Many high-asset divorce cases involve more complex issues such as business appraisal and division, stock options, complex retirement, pension and deferred compensation plans, and commingling of separate with community interests. In many of these cases, the most efficient way to plan case strategy begins with the selection of the right experts to supplement your divorce lawyer’s expertise. In many cases, choosing the right expert and using him or her effectively can make or break your case.
Value Of Mediation Or Collaborative Divorce
Anyone going through a divorce should always consider the option of mediation prior to pursuing expensive litigation. So long as both sides are properly represented throughout the mediation process, a mediated settlement could potentially save tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. While not every case can be successfully mediated, settlement should always be at the forefront of the legal plan for your divorce – mediation through the collaborative law process is generally the quickest way to settlement.
Division Of Business Interests In A California Divorce
In California divorce cases, any business started during the marriage by either party is considered to be a community property asset subject to division according to community property law. This issue can be complex depending on the type of business and how the business is run. If you have a business subject to division as part of your divorce, it is imperative that you discuss the details with an experienced divorce lawyer.
Special Considerations For The ‘Supported Spouse’
Most traditional long-term relationships ending in divorce involve one spouse who has been primarily managing the marital assets. Often, the supported spouse has absolutely no idea what is going on with the marital assets until the divorce is filed and financial information exchanged. For these clients, it is of the upmost importance to ensure that a full discovery of assets is achieved. It is also very important that the supported spouse have a sound financial plan moving forward into single life.
At GYL, we have experience representing both sides of the high-asset divorce process. To learn about your options at this time, schedule a consultation at our Carlsbad office by dialing 858-951-1526 or submitting an online contact form.
Ask Our Carlsbad Property Division Attorneys
At Griffith, Young & Lass, we recognize that property division in divorce can get complicated rather quickly, despite California’s community property laws. To help you better understand and prepare for the process, we’ve compiled answers to some of the questions we receive most often about the property division process in California. Keep reading to learn more!
What does community property mean?
Community property is all property acquired by either party during the marriage, except gifts and inheritances.
What if I brought assets into the marriage?
Assets owned prior to marriage are separate property. However, in certain circumstances, the marital community can acquire an interest in the separate property of one spouse. One example is when mortgage payments are made with community income on a separate property house after the date of marriage.
What if my spouse signed over the house title to me?
In California, title of a house does not generally control on the issue of ownership in divorce cases. In fact, if one spouse signs over title of a marital asset to the other during the marriage, there is a presumption of undue influence that must be rebutted by the spouse asserting sole ownership of the property.
What if we have separate bank accounts and credit cards?
If the money was earned during the marriage, then it is divided in half upon dissolution of the marriage. If the debt was accrued during the marriage, then it is divided in half upon dissolution of the marriage. Unless you have a prenup, then the name on the account makes no difference.
Who gets to keep the house?
Two things can happen to a marital house: it can be sold with the proceeds divided, or one party can purchase the other party’s interest from them. If both parties want to keep the house, then it will generally be ordered sold.
How is a pension divided?
In California, a pension is divided by calculating the community interest and awarding the non- employee spouse his or her half. The formula used is called the “time rule” or the Brown Formula and considers the overlap of marriage and time served with the company. The community is only entitled to a pro-rate share of the pension and does not get credit for working years during which the parties were not married.