Divorce Insights: What About the House?
Community Property is a little complicated, but not by much. Here’s what you need to know.
California is a community property state. This means there is an absolute 50-50 breakdown of property between spouses. This is different from other states that are “equitable property” where 50-50 might not be what’s seen as fair in their case.
Community Property Keeps it Simple
Property division mediation in California is much simpler than in the states with equitable property laws. In California, it really does come down to math. And the absolute 50-50 is the final answer. Your divorce lawyer’s job will be to show a truly even split of assets.
What’s Not included in the 50-50 Split?
Any assets acquired before the marriage are not included. Any gifts or inheritances that are for one spouse instead of both are also not included. So if your parent died and you inherited a large sum of money during your marriage, that would not be included in your 50-50 split. As long as your spouse wasn’t listed as a beneficiary in the inheritance.
What if an inheritance is used to buy a home?
This is very common and the rules are clear that as long as the inheritance money can be traced directly to a down payment or a portion of the purchase, that money can be separated out and then not a part of the 50-50 split. However, if the documentation doesn’t include a direct link and the funds were commingled with joint monies it is much more difficult to prove. The burden of proof is on the person who received the inheritance to prove the linkage.
Another point to remember is that the inheritance is set aside but not any interest or profit on top of that inheritance. So let’s say within a marriage the wife inherits enough money to purchase a home outright. Even without putting the husband’s name on the deed, the house is community property. The wife will get the initial purchase price of the home back as an inheritance exemption, but the property value increase will be split 50-50.
If it’s so clear – do you need a lawyer?
Property division in a community property state does seem pretty straightforward. But where a good lawyer is worth their weight in gold is the ability to prove different exemptions. Hollie Lemkin works with forensic accountants and other experts in this field who will help provide links that other lawyers might miss. If you are getting divorced with any kind of real property involved, you want someone who will put in the real work to find every penny you deserve.