Category Archives: Property Division

Unique Issues Often Complicate High-Profile Divorces

Unique Issues Often Complicate High-Profile Divorces

Couples in an average marriage face some pretty common issues when they file for divorce. For example, they have to divide their property and debts. If they have children, they must develop a good parenting plan that covers custody and visitation. And, since divorce records are public, friends and family could discover their very private dealings, but it’s unlikely their peccadilloes will hit the news or go viral. High-profile divorces take common issues up a notch or two (or three or four, depending on the couple). Continue reading

In the Best Interests of the Python Pet Custody in a California Divorce

In the Best Interests of the Python: Pet Custody in a California Divorce

As a married couple, Noah and April shared everything – their finances, homes, and friends. They also shared their pet. Desi was a ball python they had raised for more than seven years. Although snakes are not generally considered cuddly pets, both Noah and April loved hanging out with him. But pet custody never entered their minds until they decided to end their marriage. Since they both wanted to keep Desi, deciding what was in the best interests of their python became a major obstacle. Continue reading

3 Types of Separate Property in a California Marriage

3 Types of Separate Property in a California Marriage

When people get married, it’s often said that they are becoming one. Their lives, friends, and family are combined to form their new life. But what about their property? Does one person’s stuff automatically belong to the new spouse? Not necessarily, especially in a community property state like California. Possessions can be considered community (owned by both), separate (owned by one person), or mixed (a little of both). To make things a little more complicated, three types of separate property can exist in a California marriage. Continue reading

QDRO Dividing Retirement Plans During a Divorce

QDRO: Dividing Retirement Plans During a Divorce

Property division is one of the most critical and contentious parts of a divorce. The parties and their attorneys must first identify all assets and debts, then categorize them as marital property or separate property. Some assets might even be a little bit marital and a little bit separate. Investment and retirement accounts can be particularly difficult for people to split up. However, a QDRO takes care of the actual process of dividing retirement plans. Continue reading

Do Movies About Divorce Get It Rightt

Do Movies About Divorce Get It Right?

Be aware that there are spoilers ahead if you have never seen the movies about divorce discussed in this article.

Mrs. Doubtfire – Stability Trumps Whimsy When It Comes to Child Custody and Visitation

This 1993 film starring the late Robin Williams focused on divorce, child custody, and visitation in a poignant yet comical way. As Daniel and Miranda Hillard’s marriage ended, Daniel’s whimsical behavior made him look like an unfit parent. He and his children had a great relationship, but the court granted custody to Miranda. After all, she had a good job and a stable home environment. The court also insisted Daniel clean up his act and limited his access to the kids.

Daniel’s response was to transform himself into an older female character – Mrs. Doubtfire – and get hired to be his own children’s nanny. He and the children became closer until his scheme fell apart, making him look even more unstable. Unlike many movies about divorce, this film ends on a high note. But did the movie makers get it right?

Child custody and visitation are significant points. It seemed the court tried to make decisions that were in the children’s best interests at all times. A stable home life is essential, and Daniel, at first, did not offer this. It made sense to give Miranda full custody and to limit Daniel’s visits. So, it appears that the court did get it right

However, the court may not have considered the children’s feelings on this matter. Although children are not always the best judge of character, Daniel’s kids were close to him and needed to see him. Daniel and Miranda worked out a compromise on visitation that the judge probably would have been approved if included in a California parenting plan.

Kramer vs. Kramer – When Home Away from Home Isn’t Home

This 1979 legal drama is about Ted and Joanna Kramer and their son, Billy. Joanna deserts Billy, leaving him Ted. Unfortunately, she had been Billy’s primary caregiver because of Ted’s high-stress, time-consumer job.

After being gone for more than a year, Joanna returns to divorce Ted and claim custody of Billy., despite Joanna’s abandonment, she won custody of her son.

Joanna prepares an apartment for Billy and then tearfully confesses to Ted that Billy’s true home is with Ted. We don’t see any courtroom scenes as the movie ends soon after, so it’s unsure whether Joanna officially yielded custody or not.

Courts in the 1970s still tended to favor mothers over fathers when it came to custody battles. Movies about divorce did, too. The court here seemed to ignore Joanna’s abandonment and Ted’s stepping up to be a good father to Billy. This may be partly due to something called the “tender years doctrine” that presumed moms should have custody of very young children.

In a California divorce, the courts make custody decisions based on many factors, including what is in the child’s best interests. Abandonment is a serious concern, especially when the child’s other parent is not unfit. A California judge faced with this situation today might have granted sole physical and legal custody to Ted. However, both parents may negotiate a parenting plan and present it to the court for approval.

The War of the Roses – Property Division Can Be a Thorny Issue

This dark comedy shares the story of Oliver and Barbara Rose. During their marriage, they had two children and became very wealthy due to Oliver’s legal career. Finally, though, Barbara confesses she no longer loves Oliver, and they decide to divorce.

The real problems begin when they start splitting up their property. The mansion that Barbara had found and filled with expensive possession became the main point of contention. Barbara kicks Oliver out of the house. Despite his attorney’s advice to compromise, Oliver returns to the home. As their conflict spirals out of control, the couple begins destroying their home, its contents, and eventually each other.

As movies about divorce go, this one captures how personal property division can become to divorcing couples. Sometimes it’s not about the actual property. Instead, personal feelings can get in the way, preventing much-needed compromise.

The best way Oliver and Barbara could have prevented the loss of property and life here would have been to heed the advice of their divorce attorney. Since California is a community property estate, shared assets and debts are split 50-50 with a few exceptions. Attorneys with property division experience could have used California law to help the Roses categorize their property and then amicably divide it.

Movies About Divorce Don’t Always Get It Right. Talk to a California Divorce Attorney About Your Divorce.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Yours, Mine, and Ours Property Division in a California Divorce

Yours, Mine, and Ours: Property Division in a California Divorce

Both versions of the movie Yours, Mine & Ours tell the heartwarming story of two large families combining into one. But couples getting divorced face the exact opposite situation. Instead of combining, they are dividing everything from assets, debts, and sometimes even friends. Since California is a community property state, it almost seems like splitting everything 50-50 should be simple. But property division in a California divorce can be extremely complicated and is best handled by an attorney with deep experience and knowledge.

This article looks at property division fundamentals to give you a basic understanding of how it works.

Separate vs. Community

Some states handle property division in a divorce through equitable distribution. A divorce settlement or final order, then, might consider all the couple’s assets and debts, along with a myriad of other factors, then split everything as equal as possible.

Nine states, including California, are community property states. This method of property division, at its most basic levels, splits a couple’s property and debt into one of the following categories:

  • Separate. Assets each person brings into the marriage usually start out as their separate property. Certain assets acquired during the marriage could be considered separate, including inheritances.
  • Community. Most property acquired by a couple during their marriage is considered community property that is split roughly 50-50.
  • Quasi-Community Property. The couple acquired property in another state, but it would have been community property had they bought it in California.
  • Mixed Community and Separate Property. Sometimes property is “part separate property and part community property.” This type of asset can be especially challenging.

Your California divorce attorney can provide knowledgeable assistance when it comes to categorizing your property.

A Few Potential Examples of Property Division in a California Divorce

The following examples give you an idea of how things might go but are not intended to imply that is the way your property will be divided.

  • Separate Property. Helene purchased her house several years before she and Max were married. During their seven-year marriage, Helene paid the taxes, insurance, and maintenance from her separate income. If they divorce, the house will probably be considered Helene’s separate property.
  • Community Property. Max and Helene buy a house together as a married couple. They both sign the mortgage and contribute to the down payment from community funds. Max and Helene made monthly mortgage payments from a joint account. Also, the couple shares maintenance and insurance costs. During the property division part of their divorce, the home probably will be considered community property.
  • Quasi-Community Property. Since both Helene and Max enjoy skiing and other winter sports, they decide to buy a ski lodge in Colorado. They file for divorce in a community property state, but Colorado is an equitable distribution state. The ski lodge probably will be split according to California divorce laws.
  • Mixed Community and Separate Property. Let’s look back at the home that Helene bought before she married Max. At the beginning of the marriage, the house would be Helene’s separate property. However, in this scenario, Max pays for home improvements that improve the value of the home. Property division now gets very tricky. Is Max entitled to half of the home’s improved value – or more?

This article can only cover the basics of property division. Your results could vary depending on your unique variables. Therefore, the best way to handle property division is to hire an experienced attorney.

Help with Property Division Is Available

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Dividing Business Interests in a Divorce

Dividing Business Interests in a Divorce

Many couples own business interests. These can take the form of a business they own, operate, or hold a significant share. When couples decide to divorce, dividing business interests usually becomes a huge issue. After all, property division, which is itself very complicated, becomes even more complex when business assets are involved.

The Preliminaries of Dividing Business Interests

First, it’s essential to know what you are dealing with. Trying to divide property between spouses is impossible without certain information, including:

  • Are the business interests separate or community property? In a community property state like California, most marital property and debts split roughly 50-50. However, is your business separate property – owned by one spouse – or community property – owned by both spouses? In most cases, separate business interests remain with the spouse who owns them.  Community business interests are dealt with differently.
  • Are there any agreements that affect property division? For example, did the couple sign pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements? If so, those agreements may address any business assets. Likewise, a buy-sell agreement may address how to handle business assets in the event of a divorce.
  • How much is the business worth? Valuation of business assets is challenging and should not be attempted on your own. You and your divorce lawyer will discuss how to handle valuation, but you will probably need to hire an expert. Undervaluing your business is literally leaving money on the table.

After working through the issues mentioned above, along with any others that apply, you and your spouse can begin dividing business interests.

The Final Decision

Often, couples will use one of the following methods of dividing their business assets:

  • The Buy-Out. One party can buy the other party’s interests rather than dividing them. In some cases, one spouse might be more vested in the business. The problem here is that the purchasing spouse must be liquid enough to complete the purchase.
  • Dividing. The parties could divide the business equally. For example, if the couple owns 80% of the company’s shares, each spouse could take 40%. Alternatively, the couple could split the equipment, accounts receivable, and real property. This might work especially well for parties who own a professional services business.
  • Selling to a Third-Party. In this scenario, the couple receives the cash instead of dividing their actual ownership interests. It’s still necessary to properly value the business.
  • Continuing as Co-Owners. Some ex-spouses may remain so amicable that they simply continue owning and operating their business. This is rare and could be very risky. If the spouse’s relationship becomes rockier after the divorce, they may have to return to court to split the business for good.

Learn More About Dividing Business Interests

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 Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.