Can You Get a Default Divorce in California?

Can You Get a Default Divorce in California?

When filing for divorce in California, you may be facing a lot of unknowns. This can be especially true when you are unsure if your ex will participate in the case. In some instances, a person filing for a California divorce can get what is known as a default judgment. A default judgment occurs when the other party does not formally answer after being served with a legal case. If you have a pending California divorce case, you may be wondering: Can you get a default divorce in California? Continue reading

Is it Better to Get a Divorce or Legal Separation in California?

Is it Better to Get a Divorce or Legal Separation in California?

Deciding to end your marriage is a complex decision that can raise numerous questions. Are you ready to divorce? Would it be better to live apart? What about a trial separation? Is divorce a better option than separation? How will you divide your property and share custody of your kids? Is separation preferential to divorce in California? If you are thinking about ending your marital relationship, you will want to know: Is it better to get a divorce or legal separation in California? Continue reading

Financial Tips for Men Going Through a Divorce

Financial Tips for Men Going Through a Divorce

In a previous blog, we talked about finances for women going through a divorce. Now, it’s the men’s turn. The divorce experience is as different for men and women as, well, men and women. Nowhere is that more apparent than in family finances. Even though men tend to fare better financially than women post-divorce, it is still important to consider some financial tips for men who are going through a divorce.

Learn Everything You Can About Your Finances

It may be difficult to negotiate a reasonable divorce settlement if you don’t know what’s involved. What bank accounts do you and your spouse have? How much debt do you have? Did you or your wife take the leading role in financial decisions. Make sure you know where you stand.

Make an Inventory of All Property

At this point, don’t worry about whether it is community property or separate property. Account for cash, bank accounts, real estate, personal property, and other assets. Prepare a list that is as complete as possible. Then put it in a safe place.

Explore Spousal Support Options

Some men resist paying spousal support. The reasons vary. Sometimes the husband took a greater role in financially supporting the family while the wife focused on home and children. Others may be worried they won’t have enough money to live on.

Some men resist receiving spousal support. In divorce cases where the wife makes more money than the husband, or where the husband takes an increased child custody role, the wife may pay spousal support to the husband.

Prepare for Child Support

Whether you will pay and how much depends on a number of factors. The judge hearing your divorce case will enter an order for one or both parents to provide a certain amount to cover a child’s living expenses.

Make sure you provide complete and accurate financial disclosures. The court will consider both parents’ net disposable income when deciding on child support.

Hold Off on Impulse Buying

Depression or even a sense of freedom sends some men over the financial deep end. This may not be the best time to buy a boat, go to Vegas, or move cross country. If possible, wait until after the divorce is final before making any big decisions.

Divorce is Hard

An experienced California divorce attorney can help you achieve the best outcome possible. 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.
Does How Property Is Titled Matter When You Get a Divorce?

Does How Property Is Titled Matter When You Get a Divorce?

Married couples may not always think about how their property is titled until the time comes to divorce. Then, questions inevitably arise about who owns what. This is a critical question because each person will want to ensure he or she is able to live comfortably after the proceedings have concluded.

Property division is one of the core functions of divorce proceedings. It is important to learn about how the law will affect your property, debt, and income so that you can meet your needs, and those of your children, after your divorce is final.

California is a community property state. To read more about the basics of property division in California, please see our earlier blog here.

California law has many provisions designed to protect spousal property rights. Two of the most important are (1) the presumption of community property during marriage and (2) requirements for spousal consent for certain ownership and transfer rights of property.

First, there is a presumption in California that property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is community property subject to equitable division in the event of a divorce. This is a powerful presumption. It acts to bring an asset into the marital estate even when one spouse attempts to title it in his or her name alone.

Second, California law often requires the consent of one spouse for the other spouse to own property in certain ways or to transfer certain property interests. California offers many different ways that people can own property, each with different requirements for ownership or transfer of rights. However, married couples are limited in how they may own property acquired during their marriage. For example, a husband may buy a house as his sole and separate property, but only if the wife consents for him to do so. This consent often takes the form of a quitclaim deed.

If you want to learn more about property ownership in California and how state law affects your marital assets, contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help. Call us today to make an appointment: (415) 293-8314.

When Are You Considered by California Courts to Be “Separated”?

When Are You Considered by California Courts to Be “Separated”?

One of the most hotly contested issues in many divorce proceedings—the date of separation— drives when the partners to marriage can claim their respective incomes as separate property. This is a vitally important question that can substantially change each person’s financial standing well into the future.

California Family Code § 760 provides that property acquired during a marriage is considered community property that is subject to equitable distribution in a divorce unless another law provides otherwise. One major exception to this conglomeration of community property applies after the spouses are separated. This exception is located in California Family Code § 771.

Last year, the California Supreme Court considered whether a couple could be considered separate even though they were living in the same house. In the case, the couple was married in 1993 and had two kids during the 1990s. They stayed together but at some point started sleeping in separate bedrooms. There were also several other indicators of their separateness, such as the following:

  • driving separately to their children’s activities;
  • the husband washing his own laundry; and
  • the separation of their financial affairs.

Despite these indicators, the two continued to live together. The wife received her mail and telephone calls at the couple’s home, and she did not change the address on her driver’s license.

The wife argued that the two had been functioning as roommates and were separated as of 2006 despite continuing to live together. The husband argued that they did not truly separate until much later, in 2011. The trial court agreed with the wife and found the date of separation to be 2006. The court of appeals affirmed, and the husband filed an appeal.

The California Supreme Court first considered the language of the law regarding the date of separation as it related to a claim of separate property: “[t]he earnings and accumulations of a spouse . . ., while living separate and apart from the other spouse, are the separate property of the spouse.” The court determined that the plain meaning of this language seemed to require the “occupation of separate residences.”

The court also considered the legislative history of the law and later legislative developments. The court ultimately held that a couple was not considered to be living separate and apart unless two conditions were met: (1) they were living in separate residences; and (2) at least one of the partners had a “subjective intent to end the marital relationship” that was “objectively evidenced by words or conduct.”

If you need an experienced California family lawyer to discuss the particulars of your situation, contact the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We have decades of experience in family law matters, and we will put our experience to work for you. Call (415) 259-6636 to get started today.

What Happens to Real Property Owned Outside the State in a California Divorce?

What Happens to Real Property Owned Outside the State in a California Divorce?

Have you ever wondered whether California judges have the right to make rulings that relate to out-of-state property? In divorces and legal separations, one of the most important aspects of the case is the division of the couple’s property. Often, in addition to owning property in the state of California, one or both of the partners own real property—generally known as land—out-of-state.

California family law judges do not have jurisdiction over real property that is located outside the state. Therefore, they cannot make orders that directly affect the property itself. However, they do have jurisdiction over the parties to the proceeding and can therefore require the parties to take certain actions or risk being held in contempt of court.

Under California law, property acquired by either party during the marriage is generally considered to be community property. You may read more about the nature of community and separate property here. Community property is subject to equitable distribution in a divorce or legal separation proceeding.

Out-of-state real property is known as quasi-community property if it is acquired in one of two ways:

  • By a spouse “while domiciled elsewhere which would have been community property if the spouse . . . had been domiciled” in California at the time; or
  • By a spouse “in exchange for” such property.

Quasi-community property is treated as community property for the purpose of equitable distribution.

If an asset is deemed to be quasi-community property, California law provides that a judge must first try to award the property to one spouse and offset its value by awarding property of equal value to the other spouse. If this cannot be done, the judge may decide to take one of the following two routes:

  • “Require the parties to execute conveyances . . . as are necessary”; or
  • Award the party who is not obtaining an interest in the property “the money value of the interest in the property” she would have received.

The value of out-of-state real property can be a significant issue in a California divorce or dissolution proceeding. If you are involved in such a proceeding and disputed property rights are involved, you want an attorney with substantial experience in Northern California who will represent you aggressively. Please contact the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger at (415) 259-6636 to learn more.

Transmutation: What It Is and Why You Should Care about It

Transmutation: What It Is and Why You Should Care about It

In every divorce, both parties are concerned about the property they will get and the debt they will be assigned. The threshold issue in the division of property is how it is characterized: community or separate. To read more about community and separate property, please see our earlier blog here.

The importance of property characterization cannot be overstated. If property is truly held separately by one spouse, the other spouse has no right to part of the property. And if property is owned by both partners as community property, each has a right to his or her interest. Transmutation of property allows spouses to change the characterization of property ownership; it can therefore be a critical issue in every divorce.

Merriam-Webster defines “transmute” as “to completely change the form, appearance, or nature of . . . something.” When property is transmuted, its character is completely changed in one of the following three ways:

  • From community property to separate property;
  • From separate property to community property; or
  • From one spouse’s separate property to the other spouse’s separate property.

By law, California spouses have the authority to transmute both real and personal property in these three ways, provided the following requirements are met:

  • The agreement must be in writing; and
  • The “spouse whose interest in the property is adversely affected” must expressly declare that she makes, joins in, consents to, or accepts the transmutation.

Exceptions are narrow. The first is that third parties are not bound by spousal transmutation of real property unless the third party either has notice or the transmutation is recorded at the courthouse. The second exception is that transmutation is not required for gifts between spouses of personal items as long as the gifts are “not substantial in value taking into account the circumstances of the marriage.” To illustrate, most clothing and costume jewelry would qualify as gifts and therefore the separate property of the recipient. Conversely, expensive jewelry may or may not be considered “substantial,” depending on the circumstances of the marriage.

Transmutation can be a powerful force in California divorces. If you are involved in or are contemplating a California divorce and transmutation of property is a concern, you should work with an experienced family lawyer to protect your interests. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in divorce, including property division issues such as transmutation. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can fight for you: (415) 293-8314.