In California, property is divided according to community property law which means that any property acquired by you or your spouse during marriage will be divided equally between you. However, there are many exceptions and circumstances that affect this basic equal division rule including characterization of property, when debts exceed assets, education loans, personal injury awards, and when there are complex issues such as business interests, stock options, and real estate. Additionally, valuing assets accurately is essential to obtain a fair property division. Separate property, such as property received by gift, inheritance or was acquired prior to marriage, is not divided.
Generally, complex property issues arise under the following scenarios:
- High net worth cases
- Valuation of business interests or professional practices
- Division of real property
- Identifying assets brought into the marriage, or received via inheritance or gift
- Stock options
- Patents, copyrights, royalties
- Retirement accounts
- Tracing issues regarding sources of funds used to acquire assets when one spouse claims an asset is his or hers alone
- Allegations of hidden assets
- Allegations of unreported income
- Tax considerations regarding the property issues
Division of these assets are more complicated because disputes can arise regarding almost every aspect of the asset including characterization, value, the apportionment between community and separate property interests, as well as the valuation date.
Wendy K. Tse has exclusively practiced family law since 1998, with extensive experience in matters pertaining to California divorce, contested custody disputes, child support, and spousal support, among others. She is a member of the Los Angelos County Bar and Orange County Bar Associations and is a part of the Brandmeyer, Gilligan & Dockstader law firm team.