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Division of Marital Assets

Military Benefits Owed by a Non-Military Spouse in a California Divorce

A military divorce is uniquely complicated, in part because there are specific laws that determine what military benefits can be claimed by a nonmilitary ex-spouse of a service member.  If you or your spouse is in the military and are considering divorce, here is what you should know about the nonmilitary spouse’s benefit rights following the divorce.

Summary of Unique Military Benefits

If the nonmilitary ex-spouse of a service member meets all the required conditions, he or she may be entitled to military benefits that include: Continue Reading

How Divorce Affects a Family-Owned Business

When a couple owns a business together, the dissolution of their marriage or registered domestic partnership has the potential to seriously harm their business. Because the business is likely to be one of the most valuable assets the couple has, protecting the business during the dissolution should be a joint priority.  Both parties need to remember that unless there was a written agreement that the business would be the separate property of one of the parties, the community property will include the amount by which the business has appreciated during the marriage, and each of them will own half of that amount. Continue Reading

How to Handle an Upside-Down Property in a Divorce

It once was the case that a jointly-owned house was a divorcing couple’s largest asset. However, in this poor economy, many divorcing couples find themselves with homes that are “upside-down,” worth less than amount owed on the mortgage. Upside-down property can be one of the most difficult assets to handle in a divorce.

When a divorcing couple owns a house worth MORE than the mortgage, one of two things usually happen: Continue Reading

Division of Debts in a California Divorce

The division of assets and debts in a California divorce depends on their character.  Giving assets and debts a “character” sounds quite odd.  But how assets and debts are labeled ultimately determines who gets to keep what, and who is responsible for what.

Under California Family Code section 910 the community (meaning both spouses) is liable for all debts incurred during the marriage and prior to separation. It does not matter whether the debt was incurred by one spouse for his or her own benefit or for the family. It also doesn’t matter whose name appears on the bill or the credit card statements. If the debt was incurred during the marriage and before separation, it is a community debt and both spouses are equally liable. Debt incurred after separation may be either community or separate debt, depending on the circumstances. Continue Reading

Career Building During Marriage: Getting Education Costs Back In a California Divorce

Let’s say that a husband works full-time to support his wife while she goes to medical school.  The couple’s joint money is used to pay for the wife’s medical school, but not long after the wife becomes a doctor, the two decide to divorce.  Since the money used to pay for the wife’s education was community property (usually property is “community” if it was earned while married), should the wife pay this money back to the community estate upon divorce?

Many married couples in California have spent a lot of money on one spouse’s education.  Despite the steep price of an education, many couples feel it’s worth the cost because of the potential financial benefits they’ll both share down the road.  But what if there’s a divorce? Continue Reading

Who Gets the Family Home in Your California Divorce?

In most California divorces, the family home is one of the biggest assets at stake in the divorce.  No matter what you do, remember that how your property is divided can affect you long after the divorce is final.

What Happens if One Spouse Keeps the House?

Option 1: The Buyout

If one of you does keep the home, then you’ll have to buy the other spouse out.  To buy out your spouse’s share, you might even things out by making trade-offs.  Often, the spouse keeping the house will give up a share in other community property with equal value.  As with your other assets, getting an accurate appraisal of the property’s value is critical. Continue Reading

It’s Not Too Late: The Postnuptial (or Marital) Agreement in California

The postnup hasn’t been in the spotlight nearly as much as its well known counterpart-the prenuptial agreement-but both agreements carry many of the same goals for California couples.  A postnup is a financial agreement created after getting married, as opposed to a prenuptial or premarital agreement that can only be entered into prior to exchanging vows.  A postnup, also called a marital agreement, is used to plan how the property you and your spouse own together or separately will be divided and distributed if there’s a separation, divorce, or death.  For some, a marital agreement can be created to address financial issues that are troubling a marriage.  On this point, a CNN article by Robert DiGiacomo, “Quit Fighting – Get a Postnuptial Agreement,” relates the story of a couple that had been married for 30 years but often fought over money.  They decided to get a postnuptial agreement, and although it didn’t solve all their problems, the two were able to ease tensions and “breathe easier” once they got a marital agreement.  While there’s no assurance that a marital agreement will help break an impasse for other marriages, for some, a postnup allows the couple to work on other issues once financial questions are resolved.  Continue Reading

Online Divorce: How Would You Decide Who Gets What in Your San Diego Divorce?

Divorce at the click of a mouse – it may be coming soon to Brazil, according to an AP article published in the San Diego Union Tribune.  Brazil’s Senate recently approved legislation allowing online divorces under certain circumstances, and the bill awaits a vote from the House of Representatives.  If the bill becomes law, not everyone would be eligible for quick internet divorces, since it’s meant for those with less complicated and consensual divorces.  The idea has not come to California yet, but if it did, how well would it work?

As part of Brazil’s online divorce, you’d be able to divide assets.  While this seems like it should be simple enough, many of the most difficult issues in a divorce come up when figuring out who gets what.  For example, under California law, do you know what happens if one spouse started a business before getting married (making it separate property), and continued working in the business during the marriage?  Continue Reading

When Unmarried Couples Buy California Real Estate: Protect Your Investment When Living Together

As we all know, it’s still a buyers market here in California, and you and your partner may be thinking about pooling your resources and buying a home together.  This can be a great investment, but it can also turn out to be a costly mistake if you don’t take the right steps.  Consider the story of a woman and her boyfriend who bought a townhouse together, as told in a Christian Science Monitor article by Marilyn Gardner.  She had contributed a smaller portion of the down payment, and had been paying part of the mortgage, but the home was titled in her boyfriend’s name only.  When they broke up, he kept the home and the equity, and she lost all the money she had put in.  Continue Reading