How to Make Sure Asset Distribution is Fair After a Divorce

30 Jul How to Make Sure Asset Distribution is Fair After a Divorce

Divorces are often emotionally distressing enough without the worry about surviving financially afterwards. The two most important issues that have to be decided on divorce are asset distribution and who looks after joint children. At least you know who your children are and what their needs are. It might not be simple when considering assets, as sometimes one of the two separating spouses may try and hide some, or even substantial amounts, of their assets so that their division favors that spouse.

What should happen to assets on divorce in California?

California law is quite specific about what should happen to assets on divorce, even though in practice individual circumstances can be quite complicated. An experienced divorce attorney should be consulted if there are serious questions about asset division after divorce.

Basically, the law distinguishes between separate property and community property. Separate property is anything of value that either spouse possessed before marriage, or acquired as a result of a gift or inheritance during marriage. Any assets gained before the actual date of divorce, but after any real separation, may also be regarded as separate property. For example, say you and your spouse have effectively ended your marriage, even though you haven’t yet gotten round to having a divorce. You win $500,000 in a lottery. Because you have ended your marriage, this $500,000 is yours to keep and does not have to be included in determining asset division when you get around to having a divorce.

Community property is all assets that have been acquired during the marriage that are not regarded as separate property. The biggest asset for most divorcing couples will probably be the family home, but there may be other substantial assets such as bonds, shares, bank accounts, etc.

Community property in California is expected to be divided 50/50 on divorce under California law. Of course, if a couple decides to divide their joint assets in any other way without having to resort to using the Family Law Court to make a decision, then there is nothing wrong with that. However, it may be a good idea to put any informal agreement in writing and have it witnessed by a lawyer, just in case one of the couple changes their mind later on!

Debt and assets are treated similarly

Of course, not every couple enjoys having joint assets. They may very well have debts, too. Debts are basically treated the same way as assets. There are separate debts and community debts. Separate debts, i.e. those acquired before marriage, or after a marriage was effectively ended, even though this was before a divorce, remain the responsibility of that spouse alone. Community debts, e.g. a loan or mortgage on a family home, are the joint responsibility, split 50 / 50, of both spouses.

What to do when one spouse is concealing community assets

There may be a situation when one of the spouses is suspected of concealing considerable amounts of what could be regarded as community property for asset division purposes. It may be hard ferreting into a spouse’s financial affairs without expert help, but it could definitely be worth it, if you think that your spouse has been hiding property or money that you didn’t know about.

Your attorney may be able to help you discover any hidden assets. Your spouse’s past and present tax returns are often a good way of discovering hidden assets, as are uncovering things like safety deposit boxes if they exist. Tax returns, for example, may reveal payments on property that the other spouse was unaware of. They may also reveal:

  • interest on assets that you were unaware existed;
  • capital gains on assets that you didn’t know existed;
  • details of profit or loss o any property acquired through a business.

Contact Your Orange County Lawyer When in Need of Help Over Asset Division

Contact a family law attorney at the Law Office of Damian Nolan to discuss your options when you need help with a divorce, or uncovering hidden community assets. You can reach his office in Orange County, California at 562-634-1115.

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