An important part of the divorce process is the separation of assets and debts, known as “property division.”
As a “community property” state, California law assumes each spouse is entitled to an equal share of all property and assets acquired (and responsibility for debts incurred) during the marriage. Certain exceptions apply, however, such as property owned prior to marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance during marriage.
Dividing “community” property is not always as straightforward as it seems, however, as with assets that are not easily divisible, such as land. California law requires an equal distribution of the net value of assets and grants courts significant discretion in determining how to accomplish this. Thus, different parties can receive different assets so long as their net value is substantially the same.
Sometimes during a divorce it is discovered that couples have complicated their issues by commingling or otherwise altering the character of their property during the time they have been together, particularly in longer marriages. This often happens, for example, when couples pool their separate, pre-marriage funds to purchase a house together. In these cases, if one party asserts a separate interest or seeks reimbursement for his or her contribution to the community asset, they must undertake complicated “tracings” to delineate what is separate versus community property. The burden of providing such evidence lies with the party seeking the separate interest or reimbursement. If the documents necessary to prove the source of the asset are unavailable, he or she may lose valuable property rights.
Whether through negotiation or litigation, property division can be a time-consuming and emotionally frustrating process in which the assistance of an experienced family law attorney can be crucial to protecting your rights.
Christine McClane Tesi has the knowledge and skills to help navigate even the most complex property case and will fight to ensure you get what you deserve. Call today to schedule a consultation or use our Contact page to email us.