As virtually every family attorney will advise you, reaching a fair property settlement requires both parties to be honest, patient, and willing to compromise. To achieve a settlement, you and your spouse will need to go through the following steps.
A Fair Property Settlement Depends on Mutual Disclosure
To get started on a property settlement, you and your spouse will need to disclose to each other all your assets and liabilities. These need to be disclosed regardless of when and how they were acquired or in whose name they are held.
Why is complete disclosure necessary? One reason is that California law requires it. Each spouse must fill out a Schedule of Assets and Debts and provide it to the other spouse as part of the divorce process.
Beyond the legal requirement, complete disclosure is essential to the next two steps in reaching a property settlement: determining what property comprises the community estate and what the net value of the community estate is.
A complete listing of all assets and liabilities serves a second purpose. It can be used to forecast the anticipated financial situation of each of you after the divorce. This will in turn determine whether one spouse will need alimony and whether the other will have the ability to pay it.
I cannot stress enough the importance of honesty in completing your Schedule of Assets and Debts. A spouse who hides assets can be subject to significant penalties. For example, the concealed assets could be awarded entirely to the other spouse if they are discovered.
Identification of Community and Separate Property
After all assets and liabilities have been disclosed, the next step is to identify which are community and which are separate. Community property is divided so that each spouse receives assets of approximately equal value, unless you and your spouse have a written agreement specifying otherwise. Each spouse gets to keep his or her own separate property.
Community property is property you and your spouse own together. It includes everything you acquired during your marriage and before your separation, except for an inheritance or gift to one of you. It also includes your earnings and your spouse’s earnings during your marriage.
Separate property is property acquired before marriage, after separation, or as a gift or inheritance no matter when acquired.
Valuation of Community Property
Once the community property has been identified, it must be valued. Various methods can be used. You and your spouse can agree on the value of an asset. You can use the Blue Book to value vehicles. You can hire experts to appraise difficult to value items, such as artwork or a business. You can even agree to sell assets so they are converted into cash.
Dividing the Community Estate
The final step is agreeing on how you will divide the community assets and liabilities between you so that each of you receives assets of approximately the same net value.
Contact Ventura Divorce Lawyer Lisa Zonder to Discuss Your Property Settlement
I am deeply committed to helping clients find creative and constructive solutions to the conflicts that arise in the course of a divorce. To arrange for a consultation, call Zonder Family Law at 818-309-7059.