Category Archives: Property Division

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.

Am I Still Financially Responsible for My Ex-Spouse’s Debts

Am I Still Financially Responsible for My Ex-Spouse’s Debts?

Getting his final divorce order was one of the best days in Jason’s life. Finally, he could move on without his ex-wife and all her baggage. He was unpleasantly surprised to start receiving late notices from creditors and angry phone calls from collection companies. They were about his ex-spouse’s debts, not his. Can Jason be held responsible for these debts?

Community Property – and Debt

During divorce proceedings, a couple’s property and debts are split into two categories:

  • Community, which both spouses own;
  • Separate, which one spouse owns;
  • Mixed Community and Separate, which means the property or debt could be partially owned by the couple.

Property division is complex. It’s not always easy to determine whether something is community, separate, or mixed. In a community property state like California, community property and debts are usually split between the couple. As Jason unfortunately learned, there’s more to dividing debts than meets the eye.

The Nature of Debts

A community debt is generally one that the couple:

  • acquired together during the marriage,
  • one party acquired during the marriage.

Sometimes one spouse will sign for a loan or get a credit card while married but in his or her own name. Then the other spouse uses the debt or helps pay for it. This can complicate the matter further because the debt may now become part of the marital estate.

Couples may simply split their debts in their settlement agreement. In Jason’s case, he took one credit card while his ex took the other. However, when she stopped paying on the card, Jason found he might still be responsible for his ex-spouse’s debt. That’s because the divorce decree generally does not affect the agreement that caused the debt. So, if both parties sign for a loan that one party gets in the divorce settlement, the other party’s name is still on the loan as far as the lender is concerned. Basically, they just want to get paid. That’s understandable but frustrating for the party left paying for an ex-spouse’s debts. 

Talk to a California Divorce Attorney About Your Ex-Spouse’s Debts

Make sure you know where you stand financially when the ink dries on your divorce order. Suddenly learning that you have to pay your ex-spouse’s debts when you are just starting your new life is not ideal, to say the least.

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.

Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger 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.

Do These 5 Things Immediately After Divorce

Do These 5 Things Immediately After Divorce

Divorce seems to come in several stages:  First, you try to decide whether to end your marriage or not. That’s sometimes a huge decision. Then you contact an attorney and start the paperwork. After negotiating a settlement, and a parenting plan if you have children, you get your final divorce order. Instead of breathing a sigh of relief, and planning your next party, take some time to do these things immediately after your divorce is final.

#1.  Make Sure You Understand the Terms of Your Settlement or Decree.

Even if you actively participated in the entire divorce process, give your divorce settlement a final, thorough review. Take note of anything you are required to do or not do. It’s also important to know your ex-spouse’s obligations, particularly those related to your children. Contact your California divorce attorney if you have any questions.

#2.  Change Beneficiaries on Financial Accounts.

Naming beneficiaries for your financial, insurance and investment accounts is always a best practice. But it’s easy to forget that your beneficiary designations probably include your ex and maybe even some of your former in-laws.

Contact each institution to learn how to change your beneficiary designations. It’s usually a relatively easy step that people often overlook.

#3.  Change All Usernames and Passwords.

Most people have several online accounts that require usernames and passwords. If you have not already done so, change all your logins immediately after your divorce. Make sure that you don’t use passwords that your ex-spouse could easily guess.

#4.  Let Your Employer Know About Your New Status.

It’s important that you tell your boss that your marital status has changed. However, you do not have to tell your employer every detail of your divorce. Only share what is necessary and what you feel comfortable revealing.

#5.  Change Your Estate Planning.

Estate plans typically include a Will, a durable power of attorney for finances, and an advance health care directive. Other common documents are the living will and the revocable living trust.

These documents reflect your last wishes and how you want your financial and medical decisions to be handled if you become incapacitated. Not many people would want their ex-spouse to be in charge of their bank accounts or deciding when to pull the plug.

It’s usually best to contact your estate planning attorney during your divorce. Immediately after your divorce, though, make sure you change these important documents.

Help with Your Divorce Is Available

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in divorce and the dissolution of registered domestic partnerships. 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 Southern California Coast.

Full Financial Disclosure - California Divorce Laws Require It

Full Financial Disclosure – California Divorce Laws Require It

Emma wanted to divorce her husband, Chaz, for many reasons. He was unfaithful, emotionally abusive, and just an all-around jerk. But Emma was particularly happy as she filed her divorce petition because she would finally know Chaz’s complete financial picture. For many years, Emma had been held hostage when it came to money because of Chaz’s secretive ways. Now, both she and Chaz each would have to file a full financial disclosure under California law. But if he hid his money, would Emma and her divorce lawyer have any options?

What does “full financial disclosure” really mean?

During a divorce, the couple’s marital assets and debts are divided. But you cannot come up with a realistic property division unless you know what property and debts are involved.

“Full financial disclosure” means just what it says. Both parties to the marriage have to provide a complete picture of what they own and what they owe. Since California is a community property state, most income, assets, and debts acquired during a marriage belong to both parties – but there are exceptions. In fact, property division is complicated and should not be attempted without help from an experienced divorce attorney.

What does the disclosure of financial information work?

First, you serve your preliminary declaration of disclosure on your spouse. You do not have to file your financial disclosures with your divorce petition. However, you must serve them no later than 60 days afterward. The disclosures are not filed with the court, but you will file a Declaration of Disclosure and some other documents with the court that prove you took this step.

Your spouse will serve his or her preliminary disclosures on you.

As your divorce case proceeds, you might need to file a final disclosure.

The information submitted in your disclosures will be used for several reasons, including calculating property division. Child support and spousal support might also be affected.

How will I find money and assets omitted from my spouse’s financial disclosures?

If you and your lawyer feel information is missing, you might have to hire a forensic accountant to investigate. Also, watch for any documents, social media posts, or other signs that your spouse has hidden assets from you.

Are there any consequences for withholding information?

Absolutely! The judge can set aside your property settlement or even cancel it. If your divorce has already ended before you learn of the withheld information, the judge might reopen your case to review the new information.

People who lie on their disclosures may be unpleasantly surprised when the judge orders them to hand over the withheld assets. Finally, the withholder of information might be forced to pay the innocent spouse’s attorney’s fees.

Both Parties Need to Make Full Financial Disclosure in a Divorce

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.

Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
How a Forensic Accountant Can Help with Your Divorce Settlement

How a Forensic Accountant Can Help with Your Divorce Settlement

After 12 years of marriage, Blake usually knew when his wife Amanda was lying. Or, at least, he knew enough to be suspicious. The problem was proving it. Blake was especially concerned because he had just filed for divorce and knew he needed help. He and his attorney considered all the reasons they might want to hire a forensic accountant.

Analyzing and Corroborating Financial Information

A forensic accountant has the training and experience to do a deep dive into your finances. He or she can analyze your spouse’s financial disclosures and other property-related records more thoroughly than you can. They know what should be in the record and what should not be.

Identifying and Locating Hidden Assets

For example, many spouses try to hide assets from their spouses during a divorce. A forensic accountant is adept at searching and finding property that might otherwise be overlooked.

Untangling Business Interests

Business assets are often difficult to divide during the property division phase of a divorce. Experts like a forensic accountant can give you a clearer picture of how much a business is worth in terms of community property or separate property.

Calculating Potential Child Support and Spousal Support

It is necessary to understand the parties’ finances before agreeing on child support and spousal support. If the parties cannot agree, a family court judge could use your forensic accountant’s reports when calculating support payments.

Performing Traces to Characterize Property

Separate property belongs to only one spouse. Community property belongs to both spouses. However, sometimes the situation is murky, and it becomes difficult to decide whether property is separate, community, or quasi-community. Forensic accountants might have to trace back through financial records to determine how much of an asset should be divided between the parties.

Assisting and Advising Legal Counsel

Even the most experienced divorce attorney needs expert advice sometimes. Your forensic accountant provides an extra level of scrutiny to financial affairs, leaving your attorney free to deal with the legal issues.

Reporting and Testifying

Finally, your forensic accountant can be invaluable when it comes time to present his or her findings to the court. A well-written report based on factual evidence might go a long way toward helping your attorney get the best property division possible.

Let’s Talk About Forensic Accountants and Your Divorce Settlement

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in divorce and the dissolution of registered domestic partnerships. 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 South California Coast.
Postnuptial Agreements in California Divorces

Postnuptial Agreements in California Divorces

Jan and Mike married when they were young and too in love to think about complicated things like finances and assets. After a few years, they started considering asking their attorneys to draft a document that addressed their new-found concerns. As they reviewed drafts of the document, Jan had some unwelcome thoughts about whether postnuptial agreements would hold up in a California divorce. She needed to learn more.

What are postnuptial agreements?

Unlike premarital agreements, these contracts are made by an already-married couple. Such agreements typically address property issues and the division of assets. 

Typically, postnuptial agreements must meet requirements set out by California contract law. For example, the agreement:

  • Must be in writing, and
  • Must be signed voluntarily by both spouses before a notary public.

Also, both parties must be honest and fully disclose their property interests when drafting the agreement.

Why would a couple want to sign this type of agreement?

There are several reasons, including:

  • One spouse has more assets than the other.
  • Either husband or wife expects to inherit or otherwise come into a lot of money.
  • One or both parties want to protect their assets from the other.
  • The couple cannot agree on how to handle their assets, including savings, investment accounts, and retirement accounts.

However, child custody and support issues cannot be addressed in such agreements.

Do courts recognize postnuptial agreements in California divorces?

Premarital agreements are recognized by the court as soon as they are signed. This does not mean every provision will hold up in court, but at least the agreement is acknowledged. On the other hand, postnuptial agreements are not valid until they have been presented to a family court and accepted by a judge.

California law does not directly address postnuptial agreements. However, California Family Code Section 1500 states:

“The property rights of spouses prescribed by statute may be altered by a premarital agreement or other marital property agreement.” [emphasis added]

So, provisions regarding property in postnuptial agreements might be upheld in court. The exception will be if the provisions violate the law in some other way.

Call to learn more about postnuptial agreements.

Postnuptial agreements could either complicate a California divorce or make it easier. Have you and your spouse signed one? If so, and you now want to dissolve your marriage, contact an experienced California divorce lawyer for advice.

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, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Issues that Complicate Divorce

Issues that Complicate Divorce

Many people consider divorce one of the most stressful life events. But not all divorces carry the same levels of stress. Some couples agree on any significant issues, which makes the resolution of their case fairly simple. Other soon-to-be-ex-spouses have a more difficult path because of one or more of the following issues that complicate divorce.

Spouse-Related Concerns Can Be Problematic

The issues you had with your husband or wife don’t stop when you file for divorce. Some may directly impact how your divorce proceeds.

  • Adultery. You do not need grounds for divorce in California. So, your final order or settlement might not be affected except for one thing: misuse of community funds. When one spouse uses marital property on a new love interest, courts might reimburse the innocent spouse in the form of a larger portion of the remaining marital funds.
  • Revenge. Some people complicate divorce by trying to take revenge because their spouse deeply hurt them. Vengeful feelings can delay settlement negotiations.
  • Pregnancy. This issue can complicate divorce because of questions about paternity. If the husband doubts the child is his, he might ask for paternity tests so the court can determine whether child support is appropriate.
  • Spousal Support. It is not easy to work out how much spousal support is due and how long it will be paid.

Married couples without children avoid some of the concerns that parents face.

Children Typically Complicate Divorce

It’s great when both parents love their children and want to care for them. But all that love can get lost in the shuffle of divorce papers.

  • Custody and Visitation. Before a judge can issue the final order, parents have to come up with a parenting plan. Custody can be contentious as couples navigate the four types of custody: sole physical, sole legal, joint physical, joint legal. They might use standard visitation schedules or personalize them to fit their child’s needs. However, working out children’s arrangements adds an extra layer of stress.
  • Child Support. Parents who do not have physical custody often pay monthly child support to the parent who does. Calculating the amount of support definitely can complicate divorce proceedings.

Fortunately, family court judges always try to make decisions that are in the best interests of the children.

Finances Are Often a Contested Issue

Money matters to most people. Whether a divorce is amicable or contentious, spouses generally want to get what they deserve from the marital estate. Unfortunately, some issues complicate divorce to the point that settlement might be several years down the road.

  • Muddled Property Classification. Couples might have separate property, which they retain, or community property (which is split between the parties). However, it is not always easy to decide whether property is separate or community. For example, disagreements arise when one party brings substantial assets into the marriage but fails to keep them separate. Sometimes property is partially separate and partially community. It might take experts to untangle complications like these.
  • High-Net-Worth. Having more property means there’s more property to classify and divide. Again, the parties might need a financial expert’s careful analysis.
  • Business Assets. Some property is easier to appraise than others. Determining the value of a business is typically difficult and can quickly complicate divorce.

Divorce can be difficult, but you don’t have to go it alone.

When Issues Complicate Divorce, You Need Experienced Legal Counsel

Talk to a qualified California divorce attorney today. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with divorce matters in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Diego, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

Property Division in a California Divorce Is it Always a 50-50 Split

Property Division in a California Divorce: Is it Always a 50-50 Split?

When Grant and Amy divorce, Grant assumed their community property would be a straight 50-50 split. He was unpleasantly surprised to learn that this did not apply in his divorce. Property division in a California divorce can get extremely complicated. It’s critical to hire an experienced divorce attorney and to have a basic understanding of how property division works.

California, a Community Property State

Some states, like California, consider property in a divorce to be:

  • community property,
  • separate property, or
  • quasi-community property.

Most of the property and debts that a couple accumulates during their marriage is considered community property. During the divorce proceeding, community property usually is split between the parties.

However, it is not always easy to determine which category applies. Property might be separate property (owned by one party) going into the marriage, but then community funds are used to maintain it. This can muddy the waters if a couple decides to divorce.

Factors That Affect the 50-50 Split

When splitting property, couples can agree to divide everything in a roughly 50-50 split. Rather than selling property and physically dividing bank accounts, the parties might add up the value and then come up with an agreement that works.

In fact, sometimes spouses will agree to an agreement that is not an even split. Courts generally review agreements before signing a final order ending the marriage.

Adultery, by itself, generally does not affect property division. However, the situation can change if one spouse use community funds to support a new relationship. If proven, the judge might award the innocent spouse more than half of the marital assets as compensation for the cheating spouse’s misuse of marital funds.

Finally, sometimes what appears to be a 50-50 split to the naked eye turns out to be something entirely different. For example, appraisals of real property or collectibles could be wrong or have other issues. Title issues on real property could make it difficult or impossible to sell, leaving you with a piece of worthless real estate. That’s why it is so critical to consult with an attorney who has a deep understanding of property division.

Call to Learn More About Property Division in a California Divorce

Had Grant understood more about property division, perhaps his outcome would have been different. As with all divorce issues, it’s best to talk to a qualified California divorce attorney before getting started.

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 maintain offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

Taking Care of Your Financial Future During Divorce

Taking Care of Your Financial Future During Divorce

Some people may find it difficult to imagine a future without their spouse. But if you are getting a divorce, your future is at stake. While you start considering where you will live and which friends will take your side, take a long hard look at your financial future. Will you flourish financially after the divorce is final? That depends on the steps you take before and during your divorce.

Protecting Your Financial Future Before the Divorce

If you are planning to initiate the divorce, you have a little more time to get ready. If you suspect your spouse is planning to make a move, you can avoid being blindsided. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Organize your financial matters. Know what you and your spouse have and where it is located.
  • Gather your records. Get copies of all financial records and try to store them away from home. If your spouse was the person in charge of finances, you might have to quietly search for tax returns, bank statements, and investment account statements. Don’t forget Social Security and retirement accounts.
  • Avoid adding any community debt. Buying a house or any other high ticket items might hurt your financial future if you think you will be leaving soon.
  • Consider applying for a credit card in your name only. It might be difficult to get new credit right after your divorce. However, that’s when you might need it the most.
  • Start a bank account in your own name. You can start depositing money to build up an emergency account.

As you start building your financial future, consider getting a P.O. box to protect your privacy.

We have to mention this: you cannot hide finances from your spouse during your divorce. However, your spouse is not allowed to do that either.

Watch for Financial Disclosures and Shenanigans During Your Divorce

California law requires that both parties to the divorce file full financial disclosures during a divorce proceeding. This information helps the court with property division, spousal support, and child support.

  • Carefully review your spouse’s financial disclosures. Is your spouse honestly declaring income, assets, and debts? Compare your spouse’s claims with your records to look for discrepancies.
  • Is your spouse hiding income or assets? For example, you may see signs that your ex-spouse spending above their income. Unfortunately, hiding income is common. Quietly reviewing your spouse’s social media can help.

Also, this is still a time to keep an eye on your own finances.

  • Watch your spending. Making a budget based on your current finances could help preserve your financial future.
  • Check your credit report. Take action immediately if you see unusual changes. You could be the victim of identity theft, or your spouse could be doing things that will harm your financial future.

It may seem easier to give in to your spouse’s demands instead of sticking up for yourself. But taking just a few precautions with the assistance of your divorce lawyer can help you have a better financial future.

Protecting Your Financial Future Is Possible.

After the divorce is final, make sure you remove your ex-spouse’s name from your financial accounts. Take time to review your current financial situation and make necessary adjustments to your budget.

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, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Smith-Ostler Orders How to Handle an Ex-Spouse’s Bonus Pay

Smith-Ostler Orders: How to Handle an Ex-Spouse’s Bonus Pay

Spousal support and child support are often two of the most contentious issues in a divorce. The person paying support feels the payment is too high. The person receiving support sometimes feels the payment is unfairly low. Calculating support can be challenging. The process becomes more complicated when the payer’s annual income fluctuates for any reason, including bonuses and overtime. In such situations, the judge may sign Smith-Ostler Orders.

California Spousal Support and Child Support

Generally, courts award spousal support to:

“limit any unfair economic impact to a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse in a divorce by providing that spouse with an ongoing income.”

Courts consider a number of factors when calculating spousal support, including age, length of the marriage, earning ability, and annual income.

Child support is handled differently. Under California law, both parents are financially responsible for their children. Courts may order one parent to make monthly support payments to the other as a form of being financially responsible. When calculating child support, courts typically consider the amount of time parents spend with their children as well as each parent’s income.

It’s the reliance on annual income that sometimes causes problems. It’s challenging to calculate support when parents earn money from overtime or bonuses that vary from year to year.

Smith vs. Ostler

Victoria Smith and Clyde W. Ostler, Jr., married at age 17. They had four children before divorcing after 21 years of marriage.

At the time of the divorce, Clyde had a high-paying job with a financial institution that included a car allowance, dividends, and an annual bonus. Victoria had worked to put Clyde through college, then became a stay-at-home mom.

As they worked out their marital settlement, Clyde’s income became a point of contention. He wanted the Court to consider only his base salary. Victoria felt his bonus had been an integral part of the family’s annual income.

The family court ordered Clyde to pay spousal support to Victoria and child support for his two minor children. Clyde was also ordered to pay a percentage of his future bonuses to Vicki for herself and child support.

Clyde appealed the bonus part of his support order, but the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s order.

This divorce lends its name to Smith-Ostler Orders currently issued regarding an ex-spouse’s future bonus payments.

Smith-Ostler Orders Are Just One Factor Affecting Your Support.

Courts consider many actors before awarding spousal support and child support.

And support negotiations can get messy.

We strongly recommend that you talk to an experienced California divorce attorney about your divorce. 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, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.