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Division of Assets/Debts

Assets and debts are often difficult to divide during a divorce. Many assets are comingled; and require an experienced family law attorney to separate the community from separate property. Retirement accounts and investment accounts are most often comingled as contributions occur before and during the marriage. Real property, if purchased before marriage, may have a Moore/Marsden component. Some debts by definition are separate debts such as student loans of each spouse, for example. Per Family Code 2641, if such debts were paid down or off during the marriage, the community may be entitled to reimbursement during a divorce.

What is considered community property in Long Beach, CA?

In California, most assets acquired during the marriage or domestic partnership (DP) are community property assets and thus, equally divisible during a divorce.

Are earnings considered community property in Long Beach, CA?

Yes, all earnings unless excluded by agreement, are community property until the date of separation. Even if only one spouse works outside the home, the earnings are considered community, and all acquisitions with such earnings are also a community.

If community property funds are used to pay down a separate property mortgage, are they reimbursable during a divorce?

Per Family Code section 2640, separate property contributions to the acquisition of property including down payments, payments for improvements, and payments that reduce the principal of a loan used to finance the purchase or improvement of the property (interest on the loan or payments made for maintenance, insurance, or taxation of the property are excluded) are reimbursable unless there was a written waiver.

Are debts accumulated during marriage community debts in Long Beach, CA?

Most debts accumulated during marriage are community debts. Debts accumulated after date of separation may be either assigned to the person that incurred them or to either party depending on needs if the money was spent on life necessities.

Are any assets acquired during marriage or DP separate property in Long Beach, CA?

Spouses can agree to keep or convert any asset into separate property. Pre-nuptials and post-nuptial agreements must be carefully negotiated and drafted to avoid future pitfalls.

Separate property generally includes all property acquired before marriage together with all the profits and rents received from such property, all property acquired by gift or inheritance during the marriage, and all property designed separate property by the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement or post-nuptial agreement. All earnings and accumulations post-separation (unless acquired with community funds) is the separate property of each spouse.

Parties have great flexibility in deciding how to divide their assets and debts. If, however, the parties cannot agree and the court has to decide the issue of division of the family home, retirement accounts, bank accounts, personal property, etc., the court must apply California law and divide the assets and debts equally. Equal division does not mean that each asset must be split in half. The court has the discretion to award one asset to one party if it is offset by another asset received by the other party so that the balance sheet shows an even property distribution.

How is the family residence divided in Long Beach, CA?

For SaleSpouses can agree to a variety of ways to split the family residence. If one spouse wants to buy-out the other spouse’s interest in the residence, that spouse can either do so with a cash-out refinancing, other assets (exchanging assets for the house), or spousal support exchanges in Long Beach, CA.

Does the court have the power to order a party to accept a buy-out offer of the other spouse? 

The court has no discretion to order a buy-out by one party of the other party’s interest. So, if you want the house and there are no other major assets available now, you should find a way to come to a settlement. If there is a disagreement about who should take the house (the house being the only major asset besides retirement accounts), an order for the sale of the house is likely. In some cases, it is possible to defer the sale of the residence if it is in the best interest of the child(ren) but that analysis has strict statutory requirements, which among others requires a showing of the economical feasibility of a deferred sale scenario. When the children no longer live in the residence, the asset is ultimately sold; and equity is divided.

Sometimes it is not economically feasible for one spouse to keep the residence. Many divorcing women want to keep the home regardless of the cost. If the decision is not carefully analyzed, it may lead to a situation post-judgment where the spouse with the family residence becomes too cash-poor to keep the asset. The decision to keep or sell the house is best to be grounded in economics not emotions.

For a buy-out, parties must agree on a valuation of the asset (fair market value or stipulated value). If the parties cannot agree on the value of the residence, a joint or separate appraiser may offer help in establishing fair market value. Parties can also seek the assistance of an experienced realtor. If there is no agreement on valuation, the court must ultimately decide the value. Each party is qualified to testify on the value of the house. Valuation of an asset includes establishing fair market value and subtracting all encumbrances. If separate property funds were contributed to the purchase of the residence or its maintenance, the party that contributed such funds may have 2640 reimbursements (Family Code section 2640). On the flip side, community funds were used to pay down a separate property of one spouse, there may be a Moore/Marsden interest in the house for the non-title holder.

Retirement Accounts/Pension in Long Beach, CA

All interest in a retirement account, pension, profit-sharing, or other employee benefit plan acquired during the marriage is community property.

Our Division of Assets/Debts Law Attorneys

Concept of misunderstanding and communicative problem between two senior people, they are standing back to back, isolated on grey background

Retirement accounts 403(b) plans and qualified plans such as 401(k) accounts are generally split by way of Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs). If the spouse is not yet retired, the QDRO (as it is commonly known) is prepared before or after the judgment and the funds are generally received as the owner spouse retires. A Gilmore motion can be made at the time the spouse first becomes eligible for retirement but continues working thereafter so that the non-owner spouse can start receiving his/her share.

IRAs are usually split by way of a transfer incident to divorce, which if properly labeled in the agreement does not trigger any taxes. So, if an IRA account is split in half, each spouse will most likely have to pay taxes on distributions from the account but not on funds received (asset transferred). If, however, the transfer is not properly identified, spouses will pay taxes on the transfer and an early withdrawal penalty, if applicable, on the entire amount transferred.

If you are divorcing while nearing the age of retirement, you should be very careful when dividing your retirement assets. There are many pitfalls. Careful analysis of retirement funds must be conducted to properly separate the community from separate interests (if any) and to adequately value the accounts. QDROs must be in place sooner rather than later. If a spouse dies before a QDRO is accepted by the administrator, it can cause a total loss of funds for the surviving spouse. Also, many pension administrators will outright reject QDROs that direct them to pay out lump-sum payouts. Most will only pay the monthly benefits.

Personal Property/Vehicles/Furniture i.e. the Stuff in Long Beach, CA

Many divorcing couples decide to keep the vehicle they drove during the marriage, sometimes with an offset (if one vehicle was more valuable than the other) and sometimes without. Once the petition for dissolution of marriage is served, Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROs) become effective and spouses no longer can sell, encumber, dispose of, etc. of any assets or change any beneficiary forms (retirement, accounts, life insurance, health insurance, car insurance) without consent of the other spouse. So, if both spouses were on the same vehicle insurance, there should be an express agreement for one or both to obtain new coverage, as well as, for one of both to pay for vehicle insurance for any teenage children (unless they pay for it themselves).

Wedding Rings

Wedding Rings

Personal property such as clothing and small personal items are usually kept by each respective spouse. Jewelry can become subject to court division if there is no agreement. Each piece has to be valued (resale not purchase price) and characterized as either community or separate. It is best to agree on the division of jewelry as it can be costly to litigate it. Many women want to keep their engagement and wedding rings without offsets. Unless it makes financial sense to do so, learning to let go during the divorce process will make it less costly both financially and emotionally.

Same with furniture, art, boats…it is always best to agree on the division. You can either value each piece (resale value not purchase price) and create a balance sheet putting item by item on each side of the line (his/her). You can also sell it all on an auction or estate sale and divide the proceeds. Some couples make deals to exchange certain items for others if one likes x and the other prefers y. Some couples use that to hurt one another. Ultimately, the stuff is just that…stuff. It is replaceable and usually not worth the attorney fees that couples end up paying for arguing about diving it.

All property items brought into the marriage or received during marriage through inheritance are considered separate property and should be kept by the spouse to whom they belonged. So, the china women had from their mothers or grandmothers should be awarded to them.

Contact our experienced Division of Assets/Debts Lawyers for a free consultation at (562-426-6522).

Family memorabilia such as children’s artwork, pictures, etc. often become subject to contentious arguments. In today’s world of high-quality reproductions, anything can be duplicated, copied, preserved. If something cannot be copied, it can usually be preserved like children’s artwork. Whatever it is, it should not add fuel to the fire. Your children would surely not want their preschool art or a favorite teddy bear to become a subject of parental conflict.

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