San Diego Property Division Lawyers
Aside from child custody, many divorcing couples find the division of assets and debts to be the most worrying part of marital dissolution, particularly if the marital estate is substantial. Each spouse wants to maintain a certain post-divorce quality of life, and the outcome of the property division phase of divorce has a direct impact on that. Protecting your interests during the division process requires the help of lawyers who are highly experienced in California family law, plus solid grounding in finance.
Kaspar & Lugay, LLP is a law firm that was founded by an attorney who is also a CPA. Our San Diego team has significant experience in both family law and financial litigation, allowing us to apply real-world knowledge to your property division issues. Whether you have a highly complex portfolio of assets and businesses or an average marital estate with a home and a vehicle or two, you can rely on our attorneys to fight for a positive outcome for you.
Understanding the Basics of Property Division in a California Divorce
You and your spouse will eventually need to reach an agreement on how to divide assets and debts. This can be a contentious and complicated issue, but you can think of it as boiling down to:
- Identifying all assets and debts that are part of the marital estate
- Determining whether each asset/debt is community or separate property
- Assessing the value of the community assets/debts
- Dividing the community assets and debts equitably
Community Property vs. Separate Property
California is one of the country’s few community property states. Under this legal regime, the following items are important to understand:
- Community property: Essentially any assets acquired (or debts incurred) by either spouse during marriage, except gifts or inheritances received by one spouse. Community property will be divided as part of your divorce.
- Separate property: Anything that a spouse owned before the marriage or acquired after you got legally separated. Separate property is usually not divided; instead it is awarded to the spouse who it belonged to before marriage.
- Separate property can become community property: Happily married couples often mix assets. For example, one spouse may own a home prior to marriage, then the couple moves into it together after marriage. While married, the mortgage payments are made with funds from a joint checking account. Since part of the home was paid for with community funds, the house is now a “commingled asset.” This means the house is part of the community and it will need to be valued and divided in divorce.
4 Basic Parts of Property Division
As mentioned above, you can think of property division as requiring four steps. In reality, there’s more to it than this, but it’s our job to walk you through all the specifics during your case. For now, here is a little more detail on these key aspects:
- Identifying all assets and debts: Both spouses must provide a list of all known assets and debts. This sounds easy, but one spouse may be hiding assets from the other. Or, family businesses may have been used to shelter assets. Or, a spouse might have incurred huge debts without the other knowing. There are endless ways this simple process can be made difficult.
- Deciding what assets and debts are community property: Remember that only community (and commingled) assets get divided. Characterizing each asset and debt is therefore crucial. Forensic analysis of the couple’s finances could be required in order to trace where the money came from. This kind of complex issue is where Kaspar Lugay’s financial knowledge can really benefit you.
- Assessing the value of the community property: This can be simple or complex. An appraiser may be required, especially if there is a family business involved that must be valued. Again, our financial background is beneficial in arriving at fair valuations.
- Dividing the community property and debts: After the assets and debts are characterized, the community property gets divided 50/50, as required by section 2550 of the California Family Code. The couple has the right to reach their own written agreement to divide the assets differently. As for debts, those are not necessarily divided 50/50; rather, they are divided “equitably.” In other words, one spouse could end up with more debt than the other.
Finally, any property or debt that is determined to be separate property will be assigned to the appropriate spouse. Separate property does not usually get divided.
It’s Important to Thoroughly Evaluate the Marital Estate
Number 1 above is very important. Disputes can arise later on if property or debt was somehow not identified. That is why we take a deep dive and apply our financial and accounting skills to locate and value assets correctly up-front.
Keep in mind, assets are more than just your house and checking accounts. Your marital estate may include:
- Secondary homes
- Rental properties
- Businesses that you own/operate
- Stocks, bonds and other investments
- Retirement accounts
- Valuable collections of jewelry, cars, art or other items
Our San Diego Asset Division Attorneys Are Here to Help
We want you to emerge from divorce with your financial health intact. Our background in business litigation and family law is a clear advantage for our clients when it comes to property division, both at the negotiation table and in the courtroom. To schedule a free initial consultation at our San Diego office, please call 415-789-5881 or send us a message online.
Expertise for Startup Founders, Key Employees, and Equity Holders
Our law firm and our attorneys have a strong background in the financial side of the Bay Area startup ecosystem, and we are able to combine that with our top tier family law expertise to provide a thorough understanding of all the implications of divorce for startup employees and their ownership of restricted stock units (RSUs) among other equity considerations. We can help provide counsel for:
- Startup founders
- Early, high-level, or ?key employees at startups
- RSUs and other equity property of startup employees
Schedule A Consultation With A San Diego County Family Law Attorney
To speak with one of our experienced attorneys, contact our San Diego office online or call 415-789-5881.