“How does one go about determining if financial assets are separate property (owned by one spouse) or community property (owned by both spouses) in a divorce?”
As an accountant and CDFATM, my firm has been involved in many cases of tracing the separate property of an individual spouse throughout a marriage. One such case involved almost two million dollars in deposits over a ten-year period in thirteen different accounts. The scope of the assignment was to show that the community did not have an interest in one particular bank account, regardless of how title was held.
While this process can seem tedious and overwhelming, we have compiled a list of tasks, which make the tracing faster and easier. The following process was followed in resolving the above-mentioned case, and represents the general system used in all cases:
Once all of these tasks are completed, step back and look at the work and ask: “Does this make sense?” When I reviewed my work, looking at the total traceable funds and compared it to the community standard of living, I was able to show the funds were not community (owed by both the husband and wife).
While you will need to determine which records are applicable for your individual case, this basic process has been extremely successful in tracing separate property.
Cathleen Collinsworth is a lawyer at Forensic Accounting Offices in Orange & Riverside County, Irvine & Menifee, California. She can be reached at 949 262-3692 or 951 679-8940 or [email protected]. View the firm website here www.cccdfa.com.