Who Gets the House in a California Divorce?

Hossein Berenji, May 24, 2024

A common source of conflict in a California divorce is the family home. Neither spouse may be willing to move if both spouses want the house. If this is the case, a Beverly Hills family court judge may be the person to decide who gets the house in a California divorce.

How Do California’s Community Property Laws Impact Who Gets the House in a Divorce?

Most states use equitable distribution to divide assets in a divorce. California is one of few states that, instead, uses community property rules to divide a couple’s assets during a divorce.

Under community property rules, marital assets are owned equally by the spouse. Therefore, regardless of how the house is titled, each spouse owns a 50% interest in the home if the home was acquired during the marriage.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, if the home is a separate property, it would not be subject to community property division. Separate property is owned by a spouse before the marriage or inherited during the marriage.

However, the spouse must have maintained a separate status throughout the marriage. Otherwise, the house may be subject to division in a divorce.

The parties may have a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement that addresses ownership of the house in a divorce. If so, the agreement would override community property rules if it is legal and valid.

Another exception would be if the spouses reach a property settlement agreement. The spouses could divide their assets without adhering to community property rules. However, if the spouses cannot agree on who should stay in the home, the court decides for them.

How Is a Home and Other Property Divided in a Beverly Hills Divorce?

Understanding the process of dividing assets during a divorce in California helps to answer the question of who gets the house in a divorce. Steps involved in property division include:

Classification of Property

Most property acquired during a marriage is community property. However, spouses may dispute the property classification of some assets, including the house.

Factors to consider when determining whether a house is a community or separate property include:

  • What was the date the house was acquired? If it was acquired during the marriage, it is likely community property.
  • Did a spouse commingle property funds with community property funds? For example, did a spouse use marital funds to improve separate property? If so, the property may now be community property.
  • How was the house used during the marriage? If the home was used as the family house and both spouses contributed to its upkeep, a home that began as separate property might now be community property.
  • Did a spouse add their partner to the title of the home? If so, the intent would be to transfer the home from a separate property to a community property.

Maintaining a home as separate property during a marriage can be difficult. If you assert the house is separate property, you may need to trace funds and ownership to prove that you did not commingle the house with marital assets.

Review Marital Agreements

If you have a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement, your attorney reviews the agreement to determine how it impacts the property. The agreement could change the classification of assets in a divorce.

Valuation of Assets

We value community property as of the date of separation. Complex or high-value assets might be difficult to value. Therefore, we may employ appraisers and other experts to value some marital assets.

Identify Increases in Value of Separate Assets

Separate assets are not subject to property division during a divorce. However, if separate property increases in value, the increase could be subject to community property rules.

Negotiate a California Divorce Property Settlement Agreement

Oftentimes, spouses work with their Beverly Hills divorce lawyers to negotiate a property division agreement. The process of dividing assets during a divorce can be lengthy, complicated, and frustrating in some cases. It helps to hire a divorce lawyer with significant experience handling high-value and complex property division cases.

The best outcomes are generally achieved through negotiations and settlements. Other factors might need to be considered, such as a spouse’s ability to afford to move out of the house and which parent has custody of the children.

The matter goes to trial if the parties cannot resolve their differences. However, a judge might not divide property in the best way for the couple or family. If you have questions about property division in a California divorce, you can discuss your concerns with a Beverly Hills property division lawyer during a consultation.

Contact a Beverly Hills Family Law Lawyer Today

If you’re going through a divorce, you need a strong team on your side fighting for your rights. Call Berenji & Associates today to know how we can assist you.

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9595 Wilshire Blvd Ste 959
Beverly Hills CA 90212
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Los Angeles, CA 90013
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