Property Division in a Community Property State (Like California)

Property Division in a Community Property State (Like California)

When Julie and Jackson married, they were both in their early 30s. Both were successional professionals who had lived on their own for years. After an 8-year marriage, they decided to divorce. Then the fun began – each had brought assets and debt into the marriage. Together, they had continued buying real estate, art, books, automobiles, and household goods. Their attorneys advised them of how property division works in community property state like California. Of course, they had never given it much thought until their divorce. Julie and Jackson were not sure whether their belongings were community property or not.

State Laws on Property Division

Each state in the United States has its own divorce laws, including laws about dividing the divorcing couple’s assets and debts. There are two primary ways to split marital property:
  • Equitable Distribution. Most states follow this type of property division. Courts grant marital assets to the parties as a fair and equitable distribution.
  • Community Property. A few states use the community property system. It is assumed that the spouses have equal interests in the marital property. Assets – and debts – may be split equally between the parties.
States even differ in the way they hand equitable distribution and community property. That’s why it is important to understand the laws of your state.

How Community Property Works in California

Deciding what is ‘property’ may be the first step in a divorce. Generally, property is anything that can be bought or sold or anything that has value. For example, Julie and Jackson own a house and each has a 401(k) plan. The house can be bought or sold, and the 401(k) plans have value. Therefore, the house and 401(k) plans are property that will be divided as part of the divorce settlement. A couple may negotiate a marital settlement agreement that splits their property to their satisfaction. Even so, it’s a good idea to have an experienced divorce attorney help. It’s not always easy to figure out what is property, community, or otherwise. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, a court will divide their property based on California community property laws. According to California Family Code, courts generally start with the presumption that the couple’s community property will be divided equally. However, courts may weigh in on whether an asset is separate or community property. Also, the court may award more than 50% of the assets to one spouse based on “economic circumstances.” When one party commits domestic violence or misappropriates funds, courts also have the discretion to award more assets to the innocent spouse.

Community Property Division Is Not Always Easy.

Finding assets and determining their value, as well as whether the asset is separate property or community property, requires deep knowledge of California divorce laws. Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.
Who Gets the Intellectual Property During a Divorce

Who Gets the Intellectual Property During a Divorce?

Some property is easy to split during a divorce. One spouse may get the kitchen equipment, while the other gets the books. Maybe each spouse gets a car, and so on. With some intangible property, however, the division can be less clear cut. For example, intellectual property can be a bit of a mystery, which makes it difficult to divide during a divorce. Who gets the intellectual property? That depends on several factors.

Property Division, Generally

It’s been said a million times, but that’s because it is true: California is a community property state. This means that couples generally have equal ownership of property and debt acquired during their marriage. There are some exceptions. For example, gifts and inheritance usually remain the separate property of the spouse recipient.

Types of “Intellectual Property”

By definition, intellectual property typically is a work of human intellect. In practice, intellectual property rights may attach to:
  • Patents,
  • Copyrights,
  • Industrial design rights,
  • Plant varieties,
  • Trademarks, and
  • Trade secrets.
An inventor may have exclusive rights to an invention that is patented. Someone involved in an artistic or creative field may own the copyright to their works, which also gives them exclusive rights. If the inventor or artist owns the sole right to use or benefit from their intellectual property, is it their separate property? Should it be considered community property?

Dividing Intellectual Property During a Divorce

Generally, a spouse’s effort, time, and skill are considered community assets. During a divorce, each party must disclose all assets and debts to the other party, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and other intellectual property. As with other property, intellectual property may be divided among the spouses, regardless of who actually created it. When it comes time to divide intellectual property, however, that property’s value can be a problem. A work of art or invention may not be profitable at the time of divorce but could generate future income. Determining whether an ex-spouse receives any future profits from intellectual property is a complicated issue. In re Marriage of Worth is one important California divorce case that involved intellectual property rights. The husband, Frederick L. Worth, had written and published several trivia books during his marriage to Susan Worth. When the couple divorced, they agreed to split the book royalties evenly. However, the husband later filed a lawsuit against the makers of the board game “Trivial Pursuit” claiming they had plagiarized his books. Though their divorce was final, Susan Worth claimed one-half of any proceeds from her husband’s lawsuit. Because the books were considered community property in the divorce, “such copyrights and related tangible benefits must be considered community property.” (See 1 Nimmer on Copyright (1987) §6.13[B], p. 6-37).

Intellectual Property – Divorce or Not – Is Complicated

If you or your spouse own interest in intellectual property, talk to an experienced California divorce attorney today. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys. Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
4 Factors Considered During Child Custody Discussions

4 Factors Considered During Child Custody Discussions

When parents divorce, some of the most important decisions they face relate to their children. For example, Max and Becca didn’t disagree about much during the early stages of their divorce. However, both were a bit stymied when it came to the kids. They weren’t sure how to prepare a parenting plan that the judge would approve. Let’s look at four of the most important factors considered during child custody discussions.

Health & Safety of Child

Each parent generally is expected to play a role in the health and safety of the child. In fact, the judge may consider this a primary concern when reviewing a parenting plan or making custody decisions. One way to promote the health and safety of a child is to remember that children generally are more likely to thrive when parents:
  • Avoid physical violence toward each other or the child;
  • Agree on living arrangements and rules;
  • Provide a safe and appropriate environment for visiting with family and friends.
A parenting plan usually includes agreements on how to handle medical issues, including doctor visits, vaccinations, health insurance, and emergency medical treatments.

Relationship with Family

Another area of critical importance is the child’s relationship with his or her parents and extended family. A judge may scrutinize a parent’s interactions with the child before assigning joint legal custody, sole legal custody, joint physical custody, or sole physical custody. Judges generally like both parents to be involved in caring for a child. Signs of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence taint a child’s relationship with the abusing parent. California divorce courts put the child’s best interests before the parent’s need to be with their child.

Stability of Living Environments

While it’s important to consider how well a child and parent get along together, the living environment plays a big role in deciding custody:
  • A parent who allows unsafe or illegal activities in the home may receive limited custody and visitation.
  • Parents who move frequently and erratically may not be providing the best home environment.

Overall Best Interests of Child

California law requires a divorce court judge to make custody arrangements that are in the best interests of the child. During child custody discussions, courts may look at the big picture. For example, a child may love both parents, but the court grants sole custody to one parent or requires supervised visits with the other parent. This may occur because one parent has put the child at risk or ignored the child’s basic needs of health, safety, home, and family.

Make Your Child Custody Discussions Count

Start with retaining an attorney who understands complex child custody arrangements., as does Judy Burger who is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. To discuss how to handle property and divorce issues, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
Recognizing the Signs of an Abusive Spouse

Recognizing the Signs of an Abusive Spouse

We often have trouble recognizing the signs of an abusive spouse. Some people tolerate mild behavior from a spouse without realizing it has worsened over the years. Others accept threatening behavior because they are afraid or feel they have no place to go. Maybe you feel you are in a bad relationship but don’t feel it has risen to the level of abuse. Let’s look at some of the signs that may open your eyes.

Some Signs of Abuse Are Obvious

Physical violence may be the biggest red flag. If you have experienced any of the following from your spouse, you have been abused:
  • Hair pulling, slapping, biting, kicking, scratching, and choking;
  • Putting you in dangerous situations;
  • Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol;
  • Using weapons or other devices to hurt you; and
  • Forcing you to perform sexual acts.
Actions related to physical violence also signal trouble. For example, your spouse or partner may be abusive if he or she prevents you from calling for help, getting medical attention, sleeping, eating, or calling the police.

More Subtle Actions May Be Abusive, Too

Some signs of an abusive spouse may not be so obvious. However, the following behaviors may be considered mistreatment:
  • Insulting remarks;
  • Undermining your self-confidence;
  • Demanding that you change your appearance or get plastic surgery;
  • Isolating you from your family and friends;
  • Destroying your personal property;
  • Ignoring your wishes and boundaries;
  • Harassing you with phone calls, emails, and texts;
  • Monitoring your every move;
  • Showing no compassion or empathy.
Remember that abuse doesn’t have to be physical and that either spouse or partner can be abusive.

What Can You Do if You Recognize the Signs of an Abusive Spouse?

Your course of action may depend on the level of abuse you face. If your spouse will not address abusive behavior, it may be time to consider divorce or at least a domestic violence restraining order. However, leave or call for help if you feel unsafe for any reason. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.