Property Division Attorney in Orange County, CA
Getting divorced is not an easy decision. Issues on property and debts, spousal support, child custody, and other matters all add up to the complexities of divorce proceedings. Our Orange County property division attorney has a good grasp and understanding of the California divorce statutes.
We can help you understand property rights better and ease your divorce settlement and asset division. Talk to one of our Orange County family law attorneys today!
Property Division in California
When you and your partner get divorced or legally separated, the court will have to decide how the properties that you and your spouse acquired during your marriage are to be divided. This applies even if you and your spouse have informally agreed on how you want to divide your property – the judge will still have to sign off on the agreement.
California is a community property state, which means that generally, any property that you and your partner made while you were married or in a domestic relationship is owned equally by the both of you. This also applies to debt wherein any debt made by either or you while married will be shared equally by you.
The inverse is also true. Anything that either of you acquired before your marriage will remain that person’s property, called separate property.
While that is the general rule, there may be some exceptions. We’ve listed some examples of properties below and how they would be divided according to California divorce law.
A business started during the marriage is evenly owned by both parties. The value of the business may be appraised by a third-party expert. All income earned by the business will also be equitably distributed. Business loans taken out for the business are also split evenly.
A joint account will be split evenly even if one party contributed more to the bank account.
The value of cars will be based on the Kelley Blue Book which is a list of the fair market value of new and used cars. Both parties have a 50% ownership of all cars, even if a car is in the name of one or the other. Debts associated with the car (e.g. car loans) are also split evenly between the parties.
Credit card debts will be split evenly, regardless of whose card the balance is on.
Generally, the party that takes out the loan is solely responsible for that liability as in California Family Code §2641. However, an exception for this occurs if the community estate benefited significantly from that degree and if the loan was taken 10 years before the filing of the divorce.
For instance, if a spouse took out a loan to study photography and the married couple opened a photography studio that earned a substantial amount, the student loan becomes a marital debt, and both parties will be equally liable for it.
Pet ownership can be decided by the court in one of two ways. The first is to ask if the pet was given as a gift to either spouse. If it is, then it is likely that the court will declare the pet to be the separate property of the recipient.
Alternatively, if the pet is marital property, the psychological attachment to the pet may be scrutinized by the court. Whichever spouse had a greater affinity for the pet, which mainly revolves around caring for the pet, will be awarded the pet.
It is also important to note that pets don’t have any value, so they will not account for anything numerically and thus won’t have to be paid for by whoever receives it.
Inherited property, such as trusts, are exceptions to the rule even if the inheritance was passed on during the marriage. Any inheritance is the exclusive ownership of the inheritor and beneficiary unless there is a written agreement that says otherwise.
Retirement benefits and retirement accounts, such as a 401(K), will also be split evenly between the husband and wife.
The valuation of the 401(K) of either party is according to its most recent quarterly statement. Any money contributed to the fund before marriage is solely the property of the contributor as stated in the Separate Property Presumption (any property acquired before the marriage is assumed to be separate property), however, any amount accumulated during the time of marriage is split evenly between both parties.
Quasi-community property refers to property that you or your spouse obtained in another state that would have been considered as community property had you acquired the property in California.
In other words, if you and your spouse were married and, while living in another state, acquired some property and subsequently moved to California and got divorced there, that property is still considered as community property.
Sorting through marital assets to identify the proper division of properties can get confusing especially if there are overlaps between the community property and personal property or any transmutation of property between these categories.
To know more about the divorce laws pertaining to the division of marital property, be sure to consult with an Orange county divorce lawyer at Trevino Law, an Orange County divorce law firm.
Dividing the Community Estate
To go about dividing the community estate, you will also have to identify the value of the properties, on top of identifying the ownership of the properties. Valuation of the properties is done by serving a Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure (PDOD) by both you and your spouse. This document will list out all the properties in the community estate- including all assets and debts.
If you and your spouse disagree on the price of one of your properties, you will have to hire an appraiser to put a value on the property.
Once you are able to determine all the properties in the community estate and the value of each item, you can then get the net equity of the estate by summing all the values of the properties. The net equity will then be divided equally between you and your partner.
Do take note that it is the net equity that will be divided between you, not the item itself, which means that at the end of the divorce process, you will be walking away with items amounting to half the value of the net equity and not half the physical item. This ensures that there is an equitable division of property upon the dissolution of marriage.
Consult Our Orange County Property Division Attorney!
If you have any more questions about property distribution and how to community assets and liabilities, don’t hesitate to talk to our property division attorney and divorce lawyer at Trevino Law.
Our lawyers are knowledgeable of divorce laws and will use their experience in dealing with numerous divorce cases to make sure that your legal separation goes smoothly and get your fair share of the community property.