When dividing assets, courts are not interested in who bought property or whose name is on the lease. Regardless of the property division system each state uses, it decides who deserves the property more.Often, this entitlement is related to who used the property, nurtured it, contributed to it, and so on.
Only nine states use a “community property” model when dividing assets, and California is one of them. Essentially, the state considers any property purchased during the marriage as jointly owned by the spouses. When distributing property, the state’s goal is to leave each spouse with 50% of the assets.
Sometimes, this equal split is achieved by selling off property and dividing the money. Sometimes it is achieved by trading physical assets, making sure the value of the property is equal. Other times, the court orders one spouse to pay the other half the value of physical property.
When physical assets are traded, you must make a case as to why you deserve them.
Criteria for Entitlement
The state considers many aspects to determine entitlement.
The Length of the Marriage
Remember, a marriage officially makes you family members. As such, you are expected to share both your lives and your property. The longer the marriage lasts, it is assumed, the more each spouse contributed to the overall wealth within the marriage. Even if they had no direct involvement in their partner’s business dealings, they could be entitled to property simply by being their spouse. As a part of the family, they may have claim to assets.
Your Contribution to the Assets
The ending of a marriage does not tell the whole story. Imagine Jim and Sarah, married for 15 years. When they divorce, Sarah makes twice as much as Jim and has paid for most of the marital assets. On the surface, she appears to be more deserving of the property than he. However, Jim supported Sarah for two years when she quit her old job and went back to school. She makes way more money today, but only because of Jim’s help. Viewing this situation, the court may rule that Jim deserves some of the property Sarah has acquired.
Contribution isn’t just about careers and paychecks. Let’s tweak the scenario a bit. Instead of going back to school, Sarah decides to quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom. Doing so, she becomes the house’s manager. She keeps the place clean and oversees all repairs and remodels. Jim helps out on the weekends, but throughout the week, he comes home after work and enjoys the fruits of Sarah’s labor. As the main contributor to the home’s upkeep, Sarah could be entitled to keep the house.
Entitlement Still Comes with Sacrifice
Remember, California endeavors to split assets equally. If you feel you have a right to property, you will be asked to give something up in return.
As explained above, you may be ordered to trade:
- Physical property up to half the value of the assets
- Money for up to half the value of the assets
Before you embark on a potentially ugly courtroom battle for your property, ask yourself if the fight is worth it. Consider what you will be willing to sacrifice for this property, and understand that it may be something you are forced into. Even with the best attorneys, the court may not agree with your position, and you will ultimately have no say in its decisions. Fortunately, there is another way to distribute property in a divorce.
Alternatives to a Courtroom Fight
You have other options for dividing your assets in a divorce. Legally, spouses can make whatever agreements they wish among themselves. They can create a more equitable split, deciding who deserves what, without worrying about fastidiously trading to reach a 50% division. They can make their own determinations on child support and custody, spousal support, and any other divorce-related matter.
When divorcing couples choose to work together, it helps to have a mediator. This legal professional can keep talks focused and civil, pushing people toward the best solutions. Best of all, spouses have a say in what happens. They don’t need to worry about being “ordered” or “forced” to do something.
At Alternative Divorce Solutions, our focus is on helping people solve their problems and avoid a war in court. For assistance in dividing property, call us today at (949) 558-2624, or contact us online.