California requires all property acquired during marriage to be divided equally. At first blush a pretty simple concept. The problem becomes vastly more complex when dealing with "mixed assets". For example a home acquired before marriage is not community property because it wasn’t "acquired during marriage." But what happens when the mortgage is paid with earnings which are "acquired during marriage", or, when someone puts their spouse’s name on title to refinance?
Another frequent problem is the spouse who owned a business when they were married and worked there exclusively during the marriage. California law recognizes that the community may be entitled to a reimbursement for their efforts and has devised two approaches to deal with it, the "Van Camp" approach, and the "Pereira" approach. An experienced attorney will be familiar with both approaches, and will have developed relationships with experts who can guide the court through the approach most advantageous to their client.
Of course property divisions address every conceivable type of property, from a wedding ring to a home, and it would be impossible to address every kind of division and issues related to them in a discussion of this type. However, there are important concepts both you and your attorney should be aware of. For example, pensions must be "joined as parties" or your spouse may access it before the case is resolved. "Joint Tenancies" should be severed as soon as possible because if one party dies, the other party takes the entire asset. Pending tax refunds should be accounted for. Debts should be identified as to the time they were incurred to insure you’re not paying for debt the other incurred after you separated. If the other party claims an asset is separate, can they trace it to a separate source?
In short, it is fundamental that your attorney have the experience to marshal and secure everything as soon as possible to insure you get your fair share of the property you worked so hard to acquire. Our office has been doing this successfully for more than 25 years. Our clients get what they deserve, and quite often more than they might think they deserve simply because we leave no stone unturned. Call and let us discuss with you any asset or debt.
The Law Offices of Michael J. Smith are located directly
across the street from the Ventura County Court House
789 S. Victoria Avenue
Ventura, CA 93003
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