Property division is one of the most contentious and difficult parts of a divorce or legal separation in San Francisco, California. With help from an attorney, you can navigate this part of your case with greater skill and efficiency – protecting your assets and future. 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.
Why Choose Us?
- Our Certified Family Law Specialists can handle any challenge or obstacle that comes our way, including complex and high-value assets and liabilities.
- We are skilled and experienced property division lawyers in San Francisco who will personalize your legal experience to achieve the best possible case results.
- We are committed to our clients. You can trust your lawyer to advocate for your best interests and aggressively negotiate every part of your divorce case to protect your rights.
What Is California’s Community Property Law?
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 intricate and complex. Under the community property law, the courts will divide all of a couple’s marital assets and debts in half, in an even 50/50 split. It does not matter which spouse brought more of the income or assets into the marriage; all property will be split down the middle if the case goes to court.
California is unique from most other states, which use equitable property division laws. In an equitable division state, a judge assesses a couple’s assets and financial needs, as well as many other factors, to determine a property division solution that is equitable, or fair, for both parties. California couples do not have this experience; they lose half of what they earned to their spouse, irrespective of the circumstances. This is why it is important to hire a divorce attorney to litigate your property division case.
Understanding Community vs. Separate Property
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.
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
While community property is split equally, the remaining “separate property” is not. A person is permitted to retain his or her separate property, which constitutes all of the following:
- Property acquired by a party before the marriage
- Property received by a party after marriage by bequest, devise, descent or gift
- Profits, rents and issues of the aforementioned property
It is not always clear what characterization – community or separate – should be assigned to a type of property. Moreover, there are ways community property can transform into separate property and the other way around.
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 issues in every divorce. This can either be done coming to an agreement with your spouse or by going to a mediator. 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.
How to Protect Your Assets During a Divorce in California
California may be a community property state, but you still have the ability to protect your assets during a divorce or separation in San Francisco. The courts give you the opportunity to create your own property division agreement before a judge intervenes. This is an important opportunity to protect your assets and achieve the property division settlement that you want with help from a skilled and creative negotiator.
An experienced property division attorney can guide you through potential ways to protect your assets, such as:
- Prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Before you get married in California, you can protect your assets in the event of a future divorce with a prenuptial agreement. After the wedding, you can achieve the same goal with a postnuptial agreement. These legally binding contracts can prearrange a property division plan that protects your assets prior to a divorce.
- Alternative dispute resolution. With help from an attorney who understands how to creatively resolve property disputes, you and your ex-spouse may be able to come up with an agreement that works for both of you during mediation or arbitration. Your lawyer can help you work toward a compromise and prevent litigation.
- Smart planning and strategizing. If you and your ex cannot agree on property division and your divorce case has to go to trial, you can still protect your assets. A strategic attorney can help you do so as much as possible through advice about separating your assets, business ownership, asset liquidation, taxation, investment and savings accounts, and more.
When you hire a San Fransisco property division attorney to represent you, you gain access to a high level of legal knowledge and skill. A Certified Family Law Specialist in particular will know everything there is to know about California’s property division laws and how to navigate them. Your lawyer will take your needs and wants into account and identify ways to protect your assets throughout the divorce process. You can trust your attorney to protect your property – and your financial future – as much as possible every step of the way.
How Our Property Division Lawyers in San Francisco Can Help You
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.