Property Division Attorney in Orange County, CA
Property Division – The Division of Marital Assets
Your ‘marital estate’ is comprised of assets and debts acquired from the date of your marriage to the date of your separation. It doesn’t matter if the divorce is not finalized for months following the date of separation, anything acquired after the separation date belongs to the spouse who acquired it. California is both a ‘community property’ and ‘equal division’ state, meaning that the community property that makes up the marital estate shall be valued and divided equally between the two spouses as the Property Division that is required for a finalized divorce settlement.
California Community Property Law
DEFINITION: Community Property
California Community Property is defined as any assets and debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage by any means other than gift or inheritance, without consideration of the income or contributions of individual spouses.
Family Code Section 760-761
California is one of only nine states that adhere to the principle of ‘community property’ in a marriage.
Community property assets of your marriage may include:
- Marital home
- Other real estate
- Vehicles (cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs, ATV’s, boats, etc.)
- Stocks, bonds, annuities, CDs, notes
- Pension plans, 401(k)s, other retirement funds
- Overseas investments or property
- Businesses, business interest, or professional practice
- Collections (coins, stamps, guns, artwork, classic cars, etc.)
Upshot? – The essence of the community property law is that all community property belongs jointly to both spouses and is divided equally in the event of divorce — regardless and irrespective of the inequality between individual contributions.
Identification — Valuation — Division
Step #1 – is that all marital estate property is first categorized as to whether it is (a) separate property, (b) community property, or (c) property to be negotiated and possibly put through the legal process of transmutation (more on this below).
Separate Property Vs. Community Property
Separate property – is a spouse’s sole and separate property that is not required to be divided in a divorce. It is typically property that was purchased or possessed prior to the marriage and/or property inherited during the marriage.
Community property – is both spouse’s property that is subject to property division. Community property is any property that has been acquired during the course of the marriage.
Unfortunately, the line of clarity between separate property and community property can become blurred. For example, one spouse may have purchased the home 5-years before the marriage that both spouses then occupied during the marriage. During the marriage, the mortgage payments were paid from monies from both spouses in random contributions as the paying of monthly bills so often dictates. This is where having an experienced lawyer on your side can help you reach some practical solution in coming to an agreement on these murky assets.
Community property, like the home example, can have a separate property component to it and a community property component. Such community property assets can become separate property by incorporating a process called transmutation if both spouses agree to it and comply with the necessary legal formalities.
A family law attorney will be able to help you with transmutation for a major asset if needed, and make certain that all property is properly characterized, including the marital home, other real estate, businesses, bank accounts and retirement accounts.
Step #2 – is getting the proper valuation of the community property. Sometimes, selling the marital home is necessary and an appraisal and comparables will be necessary to establish a value; sometimes other arrangements can be worked out for significant assets (like the home) if one spouse wants to live in it and the other is agreeable. Such outcomes are possible when accurate and fair valuations can be determined and then creatively negotiated. Similar, but far more complex, is the valuation of a professional practice or a business. Ed Fahlen can help you in all property division matters: simple or complex.
Step #3 – after identifying and agreeing to proper valuations, the allocation of assets is accomplished by dividing the community property according to California law. Orange County attorney Edwin Fahlen has 27-years of experience that he will put to work on your case so as protect you, the property you have worked for years to obtain and to make certain that your property division is done properly. Ed will work to secure a favorable distribution plan for your specific circumstances that may come in the form of you taking ownership of the marital home, and/or a cash settlement, installment payments, a form of equalization using other marital assets.
Avoiding Unnecessary Court Appearances
If the parties to a legal separation or marital dissolution are able to agree on the classification, valuation and division of their marital real and personal property, they can enter into a property settlement agreement and then submit the agreement to family court for approval.
Orange County property division attorney, Edwin Fahlen, is dedicated to helping his clients navigate the complexities of a creating a comprehensive marital settlement agreement or reviewing with you an property marital agreement drafted by your spouse.
Free Introductory Meeting
I encourage you to reach out to make that free introductory meeting with me by calling (714) 395-5669. There is absolutely no pressure whatsoever. Typically, people will want to sit down with a divorce attorney to discuss their current circumstance and to learn of their options. I am pleased to offer this complementary legal service to residents of Orange County and beyond.
If it is late at night or inconvenient to call me, please email me using my CONTACT US form on the left side of the screen. This form comes directly to my desk. I will contact you the minute I see it.
Conveniently located in Fountain Valley
We are located off the 405 Freeway. Here is a picture of my office building and a Google Map to get your bearings.