Divorce in San Francisco entails several significant financial issues, and one of the most important is usually the marital home. State law typically determines how to divide shared property in a divorce, and the divorcing couple may argue over who retains ownership of the home.
In California, if one spouse purchased the home before the marriage, he or she may have grounds to claim sole ownership, excluding the home from the marriage’s community property. If the couple purchased the home together during the course of their marriage, there are several possible outcomes in property division.
When One Spouse Retains the Home
One spouse may retain ownership of a home purchased during a marriage under certain conditions. First, if the spouse completely purchased the home before the relationship started, he or she can claim it as sole property, even if the other spouse lived in it for a significant time. However, individual factors may come into play and cause the other spouse to retain other shared assets in exchange, such as a vehicle purchased during the marriage and shared between the spouses.
Ultimately, the only property and assets that are not subject to division as community property in a marriage are those which each spouse purchased and owned individually before their marriage. All property acquired during the course of the marriage counts as community property, and this includes the increased value of individual property owned by each spouse. For example, if one spouse owned a home but during the marriage the couple made renovations and increased the home’s resale value, the other spouse would likely have a claim on the home’s current value as community property since he or she contributed to increasing its value.
If a divorcing couple purchased a home during their marriage, most states require dividing the property value to each spouse equally. In many cases, the divorcing couple may come to a mutual agreement in which one retains the marital home in exchange for the other retaining other assets or financial compensation for his or her half of the value of the home.
If the couple cannot reach a mutual understanding, they may decide to remain in cohabitation for the sake of convenience or the court may order property division by sale; however, some factors may spur a judge to rule in favor of one spouse retaining the marital home.
The most common reason for this is the couple’s children. If one parent has majority custody over the couple’s children, he or she may receive the marital home during equitable distribution as doing so would be in the best interests of the children.
There are several other factors that may influence a judge’s decision to award the marital home to one spouse over another.
- If one spouse committed an act or acts of domestic violence against the other, the offending spouse may face a court order to leave the marital home entirely.
- The judge will assess any marital misconduct on the part of both divorcing spouses and consider this during property distribution.
- The judge will also consider the mental health and stability of each spouse.
- The financial status and income of each spouse can also influence property division. A judge may decide that a non-earning or lower-earning spouse has more need to remain in the home than the higher-earning spouse.
A Divorce Attorney Can Help
Ultimately, you cannot simply evict your ex or soon-to-be ex from your marital home if the two of you purchased the home or made significant improvements to the home during the course of your marriage. It is always wise for anyone expecting a divorce in the near future to retain a divorce attorney, and having professional legal representation can help clarify any concerns a divorcee may have about property division.
If you’re in the San Francisco area and would like to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our experienced divorce attorneys, contact our office today.