After disputes involving children, the division of a couple’s marital estate is typically the most contentious, emotionally charged part of any divorce case. When getting divorced, you need be able to ensure that you are getting your fair share of the marital assets. In this, our legal team can help.
At the Law Offices of Evan Braunstein, we are experienced in the valuation and division of assets and debts including real estate holdings, businesses, retirement benefits, and pensions. Our top-rated Santa Barbara asset division attorney can help you safeguard your property by properly evaluating, valuing and dividing your marital estate to avoid unnecessary tax penalties and litigation
For the purposes of California law, property is anything that can be bought or sold or anything that has value, financial or otherwise. There are many different types of assets that may be an issue in your individual divorce proceedings. For most couple’s important assets include:
Additionally, it is also important to recognize that debt is property. Whether you are your spouse have a mortgage, a vehicle loan, business loans, student loans or credit card bills, that debt will also be at stake for the purposes of asset division as well. You need to make sure that you do not get stuck with an unfair share of your marital debt.
It may seem obvious, but one of the most important steps you need to take to protect your right to a fair share of your assets is to know exactly what you own. For many couples, particularly couples who have a high net worth or who have relatively complex assets, this can be far more challenging than it seems. Before property can be divided, it must be located and identified. California law requires each party to a dissolution of marriage to provide the other with full, current, and complete disclosure of all financial information. Indeed, under the law, each spouse is required to file an accurate FL-142 form, which outlines all of a person’s assets and liabilities and each spouse must file an accurate FL-150 form, which declares a person’s current income and expenses. The information is critically important, as it allows each partner to have a fair view of the total assets. Sadly, in some cases, uncooperative spouses sometimes try to hide some of their assets, so that they can avoid distribution, and can keep them away from their former partner. This is unlawful. Hiding an asset or providing false or incomplete information can be punished by fines, sanctions, or even loss of the asset. Still, it does happen sometimes. So, it may be necessary for you and your attorney to use other discovery methods such as depositions and subpoenas to locate any hidden assets.
Along with eight other U.S. states, California is a community property jurisdiction. This fact will have important implications for your divorce. Under the California legal code (Section 2550), there is a general presumption that all marital property and debt will be split up in a fifty-fifty manner. To do this, property needs to be identified and then characterized as either separate or community property. In California, all property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be community property and each party is entitled to an equal share.
All property that is not community property is presumed to be a party’s separate property and not subject to division. In some cases, disputes can arise over whether or not property should qualify as community property. The reasons for this can vary, it could include the character of an asset or debt is determined by factual matters like the date of marriage, date of separation and source of the asset. An argument over any of these facts may change the party’s entitlements or obligations regarding an asset or debt.
There is another consideration for couples who own property in another, non-community property state. This type of property, known as quasi-community property, and it can sometimes be fiercely contested in a divorce case. If you have complex, out-of-state property, it is especially important that you seek legal assistance.
The community property is then valued. Parties may disagree over the value of certain assets. In some cases, it is necessary to use specialists like real estate appraisers or forensic accountants to determine the value of an asset such as a house or a business. After valuation, the property is divided. Dividing certain assets requires specialized services to take advantage of tax laws and to avoid penalties. For example, certain assets, such as retirement benefits, need to be handled very carefully for tax purposes. Through the use of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), we can ensure that this type of asset is divided in a manner that keeps you from being unfairly penalized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Our Santa Barbara property division lawyer Evan Braunstein is experienced in working with legal and financial specialists to make sure your finances are properly divided and in compliance with the most current state and federal tax regulations.
If a dispute over your marital assets does arise, you will no doubt want it resolved efficiently and in a manner that fully protects your legal rights. For this type of issue, mediation is often the best legal tool that you can use to reach a resolution. Mediation offers some important benefits over litigation, specifically, that is it considerably cheaper and much faster. Further, since asset division mediation is a fully voluntary process, you can withdraw at any time. This means that going through mediation will not foreclose any of your other legal options, and you can still bring a lawsuit if necessary. Our firm has extensive experience representing clients during divorce mediation in Santa Barbara, and we have the skills and legal knowledge required to ensure that your case is properly handled and that your rights are fully protected.
At the Law Offices of Evan Braunstein, we can provide you with a variety of negotiation and litigation services to help you properly protect and divide your marital estate. For help with your California property division case, please call us today at (424) 352-8939 to request your free initial legal consultation. We represent individuals and families in Santa Barbara and throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area.