Nobody wants to consider the possibility going through a divorce, but it's often a reality one might face. Knowing the law and having a plan in place to protect assets prior to marriage is crucial. This can prevent financial stress from adding to the emotional stress in the event that a marriage doesn't work out as planned. In a divorce, it's common for spouses to have a specific desire in keeping certain assets once their marriage comes to an end.
One of the most significant and contested issues in a divorce is who should get what assets in the end. For couples with substantial property or assets or for those who have been married for an extended period of time, the division of assets can be extremely time-consuming and emotionally taxing.
The state of California uses community property laws to help divide property as fairly as possible, but even with this framework, spouses can and do still contest who deserves what when a marriage comes to an end.
An understanding of community property law is critical for asset protection in divorce in California. The ownership of property is the key in determining how spouses will divide assets in a divorce.
California is a community property state, meaning the state recognizes different types of property. This includes are sole and separate property, community property, and quasi community property.
Separate property includes property one spouse acquires before marriage and property acquired during marriage where both spouses have agreed to treat as separate property. Community property is property which both spouses jointly own. Quasi-community property is property that would have been considered community property had the spouse resided in California when they acquired it.
One of the most important steps you can take to help protect your assets during a divorcee is to hire a dedicated divorce attorney in Los Angeles and let them guide you through this sometimes-confusing process.
To give readers a better understanding of asset protection in a divorce, our California divorce lawyers are providing an overview below.
Community Property Laws in Divorce
Under California Family Code § 2550, a married couple must abide by community property laws. In general, all assets and properties acquired by the couple after they were married are the property of the marriage and will need to be divided equally in a divorce.
Of course, with the assistance of a skilled divorce lawyer in Los Angeles, spouses can negotiate who gets what in the dissolution of their marriage.
For assets that were acquired by a single spouse before the marriage or that were given directly to one spouse during the marriage, the law states that the community property concept does not apply.
Further complicating the division of assets, if a spouse sold something they acquired before the wedding and used the profits to buy something during the marriage, the purchase may or may not be community property, depending on if monies that belonged to the marriage were used to make the purchase.
Take Inventory of Your Assets
One of the first steps a spouse should take in a divorce is to inventory all of their valuables. Keep in mind that these are not just possessions but can include retirement accounts and other financial means.
Document any valuables that were given directly to you and not both you and your spouse. For example, jewelry or heirlooms that were passed down to you personally.
Write descriptions and take pictures of each item, and then move them to a safe place as soon as possible. If you decide to leave your residence quickly, you will not want to leave them there.
If you can, ask the giver of the items to provide written proof that they were explicitly given to you. The more details they can provide, such as when the gifting occurred, the better.
Even if you have already moved out of your home, you can generally still return to get your belongings. Unless a court order provides your spouse with exclusive ownership, you can lawfully enter the residence even if you need to hire a locksmith to do so.
Handling Shared Property
Your Los Angeles divorce attorney may recommend hiring a professional appraiser to guarantee that each spouse receives fair compensation for the assets in a divorce.
The appraiser should assess all assets, including retirement plans and joint businesses. In fact, if you own a business, a forensic accountant may be helpful in determining business records to help place an accurate value on the company and ensuring the fiduciary issues are handled as they should be.
Property during a divorce proceeding will be assigned a current market condition price, meaning what it would cost to replace the item, not necessarily what it is worth.
For example, your five-year-old vacuum cleaner may only have a resale value of $100, but to purchase a new similar vacuum, you would need to spend $500.
The current market condition price would be the latter. Be sure to take pictures of all joint property and make a list of items of significant value that you did not take with you when you left your residence.
Get Copies of Records and Documents
While your Los Angeles divorce lawyer will be able to obtain important documents and paperwork through court subpoenas, it is usually quicker and easier if you can obtain these copies yourself prior to leaving your home. It is recommended that you have copies of:
- Tax returns from the past three years
- Pension plans
- Statements for savings and investment accounts
- Joint tax filings, profit and loss statements, and balance sheets from your own business
Protect Your Assets with an Experienced Los Angeles Divorce Attorney
Planning for the future after a divorce is important. If you need more information about how you can protect specific assets in your California divorce, call our office for a confidential consultation. We need to review your situation in order to determine what strategy may be right for you. If you are being financially abused, you will want to contact a Los Angeles family law attorney to learn about your options and determine the best way to move forward.
If protecting your assets in a divorce is one of your top priorities, you need an experienced attorney who will stand up for your rights and work to get you the property you want and deserve. Take steps to protect your assets today by calling our Los Angeles divorce lawyers or use our online contact form to schedule your consultation.
Furman & Zavatsky are experienced Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County. Our address is 15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436. Contact for a free case evaluation at (818) 528-3471.