Complex Property Division

One of the most contentious issues in many divorces is the way that property will be divided between the parties. California is a community property state, which means that any asset that is acquired during the marriage, while the couple is living together will be divided equally between them unless there is an agreement to the contrary. Any property that is owned separately before the marriage continues to be separate property, as is any property that is obtained by one spouse as a gift or is inherited. Importantly, separate property can be “transmuted” (converted) into community property if it is commingled.

The term “property” can refer to tangible property, intangible property, or real estate.
  • Vehicles
  • Homes and plots of land
  • Retirement accounts
  • A closely-held business
  • Bank accounts
  • Art collections
  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Jewelry
  • Stocks
  • Life insurance policies

While there is a presumption that community property will be divided equally, it is important to keep in mind that judges do have significant discretion when determining how to divide property and there may be significant disputes as to whether or not certain assets are community or separate property. For this reason, anyone going through a divorce in which property division is at issue should retain legal counsel.

The Division of Complex Assets Presents Special Problems

The division of assets that can be easily appraised is relatively simple. For example, a couple’s home can be sold and each spouse will take half of the proceeds from the sale. If one party wants to stay in the home, often what occurs is that that party provides the other party with other assets that are equal to half the value of the home, or buy out the other party’s interests in the home.

When it comes to assets like a professional practice or a family business, however, the division of property becomes much more complicated. For example, a business that provides the couple with regular income may be more valuable as a functional business than it would if it were liquidated and sold. In cases in which it is difficult to determine the value of assets, it is often necessary to hire financial specialists to determine the value of the business so that the court may divide assets equally between the parties.

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Contact our office to speak with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to learn more about the options available and if an annulment is the best option for you. Initial consultations are completely free and will leave you better informed and prepared for whatever you decide to do.