Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
Guiding Families toFresh Starts
San Jose Family & Divorce Lawyers / Blog / Divorce / Who Gets the House in a California Divorce?

Who Gets the House in a California Divorce?

default image

Property Division in California Divorces

Are you worried about how the property you’ve worked hard for will get split up by the court when you separate? Divorce is a complex and emotionally charged process, and one of the most significant aspects is the division of assets like the family home.

If you’re facing legal separation, ensure you understand the key factors determining who gets the house in a California divorce. In California, a community property state, the rules governing property division differ from those in equitable distribution states.

Understanding Community Property

California is one of several community property states in the United States, meaning that assets acquired during the marriage are generally considered community property owned equally by both spouses. Community property can often include real estate, such as the family home. The fundamental principle is that each spouse is entitled to a one-half interest in the community property.

Date of Acquisition

The timing of when the couple purchased the property can be crucial. If the couple bought the home during the marriage, it is likely considered community property. However, if one partner owned the home before the marriage or through inheritance or gift, it might be classified as separate property.

Contributions to the Home During the Marriage

Courts consider each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, both financial and non-financial. If one spouse made significant financial contributions to the purchase or upkeep of the home, it could impact the division of assets. These contributions can be demonstrated by records of mortgage payments, receipts of payment for work done on the home, bank statements showing transfers into a mutual account for household needs, and more.

Non-financial contributions are equally important but may not always be as easy to document as financial contributions. One partner could work to raise children, maintain the household daily, and use their labor in many other ways that support their partner’s ability to work to earn money outside the home.

Exceptions to the Rule

While the general rule is an equal split of community property, some exceptions and complexities can arise in divorce cases. For instance, if one spouse owned the house before the marriage or acquired the property as a gift or inheritance, it may be considered separate property, not subject to equal division. However, blending of assets or using marital funds to improve or maintain the property can complicate matters.

The Role of Spousal Agreements

Many couples opt for prenuptial or postnuptial agreements to outline how to divide their assets in the event of a divorce. These legally binding agreements can specify the distribution of property, including the family home, in a way that differs from the default rules of community property. When such agreements are in place, they may precede the general community property laws. If the spouses’ contributions to the household change in their marriage that are relevant to the factors of their agreement, keeping any spousal agreements updated is crucial.

Determining the Family Home’s Value

To ensure a fair and equitable division, determining the family home’s value is crucial. Divorcing partners often seek professional appraisal or evaluation of the property’s market value. The spouses may agree on a value or hire separate appraisers, and in contentious cases, the court may even elect to decide on the home’s value based on the evidence presented.

Considering the Best Interests of Children

If the divorcing couple has children, the court will prioritize their best interests when determining who gets the family home. Maintaining stability for the children may be a decisive factor. The custodial parent, often spending more time with the children, may be granted the right to remain in the family home to provide a familiar and stable environment.

Splitting the Cost

Sometimes, selling the family home and dividing the proceeds is a straightforward solution. However, emotional attachments and practical considerations may lead to one spouse buying out the other’s share. Selling one partner’s share involves determining the equity in the home so the buying spouse may compensate the other for their owned portion.

Co-Ownership of Property

Alternatively, some couples choose to co-own the family home for a certain period, especially when children are involved. The co-ownership arrangement allows the children to stay in the same residence, providing continuity during a tumultuous time. Eventually, the former spouses sell the house and divide the proceeds, or they may revisit the co-ownership arrangement.

Seek Legal Representation

Divorce is undoubtedly a challenging chapter in life, and the division of assets, particularly the family home, adds an extra layer of difficulty. Seeking legal advice from a qualified family law attorney is essential to navigate the complexities of property division and ensure a fair and equitable resolution.

By consulting with experts and understanding the factors influencing these decisions, individuals can approach the process with clarity and make informed decisions about their future. Ultimately, the goal is to reach a fair and equitable resolution that considers the unique circumstances of each case, prioritizing the best interests of any children involved while navigating the state’s legal framework.

Make a Plan For Your Divorce with Argyris Mah, LLP

You’ll get the best possible outcome for your divorce if you prepare yourself with an excellent legal team and know what the law says before taking action. Argyris Mah, LLP has helped many clients like you get through challenging times like divorce. Schedule a consultation with us by calling 408-214-6366 today.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn