San Francisco Community Property Division Lawyer
California is one of nine community property states. Community property plays a significant role in property distribution in actions for legal separation or marital dissolution, and the law governing community property is both intricate and complex. At the Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., we will ensure that your marital estate is properly classified, that your community property is divided in accordance with the law, and that your separate property interests are protected.Community property generally includes all of the assets and debts acquired by spouses during the marriage without consideration of the income or contributions of individual spouses. Separate property is property that belongs only to one spouse, including property brought into the marriage by that spouse, such as real estate, businesses, or pension and other retirement funds. Separate property also includes assets or debts acquired by one spouse individually during the marriage, such as inheritance, student loans, or property purchased during the marriage with funds from that spouse’s separate property.
Balancing Debt and Assets
California law provides that the community property is to be equally divided upon marital dissolution. However, exactly which assets and debts properly belong to the community, and which are separate property, is not always easily ascertainable and the process of properly classifying and dividing property can be very difficult. Over the course of a marriage, assets can become mixed. A separate asset may be used to acquire a portion of a community asset. Identifying and valuing community property can be hotly contested and may pose significant challenges in the division of assets and debts in marital dissolution or legal separation actions.
Dividing property and debt is one of the biggest things that you’ll do in a California divorce. This can either be done by coming to an agreement with your spouse or by going to a mediator — or some combination of both. As you do this, one way to make things fair and equal is to focus on balancing out the debt that you have with the assets that you own. In many ways, the debt is just as important as the wealth.
For instance, dividing your cash from your bank accounts may be easy since you can just split it, but what about something like a luxury car? You don’t really want to sell it and then portion out the money, seeing as how cars drop in value fairly drastically. However, just taking the car or giving it to your spouse could give one party far more value from the divorce than the other, as a lot of luxury cars cost more than $50,000.
One way to help balance this out is by looking at debt, whether this means private loans, credit card debt or even just money owed on specific items. If your spouse really wants the luxury car, he or she may also agree to take on that debt, relieving you of those payments. You don’t get anything, per se, but you also have less financial obligations. In this way, things are still pretty even.
Now, it’s important to remember that there are different types of debt. Depending on how much you’ve paid off on your home, it could represent both value — in the amount you’ve paid or the changes in the home’s value — and debt. If the value of the home has fallen, meaning your mortgage is underwater, it could be more of an obligation than something of value. In that case, you may be best to sell the house, split the money you get and then decide who gets the remaining debt that is owed, if any.
Types of Community Property
Our expertise in dividing marital estates provides our clients with the diligence and foresight necessary to aggressively and thoroughly discover your community estate while protecting separate property interests. It is very important to have the adequate assistance of counsel in dividing your marital estate. This is particularly true for clients with significant individual and marital investments and debt, including:
- Investment assets, stock portfolios and/or trusts
- Pensions and retirement accounts
- Stock options
- Family-owned businesses and closely held corporations
- Significant business or corporate interests
- Professional practice interests, inventory, and investments
- High-value homes
- Multiple real properties
- IRS tax debt
- Credit card debt
Classification of property as community or separate and the division of the community estate is decided by the court during the legal separation or marital dissolution trial. Accordingly, seasoned counsel is necessary to ensure that all assets are discovered and properly characterized. However, if the respective parties to a marital dissolution or legal separation are able to agree on the classification and division of their property (real and personal), the parties may enter into a property settlement agreement and submit the agreement to the court for approval.
Because the Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., focuses exclusively on family law matters and has extensive experience litigating divorce cases, drafting marital agreements and handling divorce and property settlements, we have the competence you need to ensure that your marital estate is properly divided. We thoroughly and meticulously conduct the discovery necessary to obtain a comprehensive picture of our clients’ marital estates, ensuring proper classification of the community and separate property. We work with professional appraisers, accountants, and other financial experts to ensure proper valuation of our clients’ marital assets. We also work diligently with our clients to ensure that proposals for property division are fair and equitable.
The Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., offers the San Francisco area accomplished and dedicated legal representation to help you navigate property and pension distribution issues in anticipation of your family law trial and prepare a settlement agreement for your marital dissolution.