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If you’re considering a divorce in Los Angeles, you may have questions regarding your property rights. Speak with a Los Angeles property division attorney at Fernandez & Karney today.
Attorneys Steven Fernandez and Mark Karney are both Certified Family Law Specialists with over 50 years of combined experience. We offer a free consultation to all potential clients looking for legal guidance for complex property division.
How a Los Angeles Complex Property Division Attorney Can Help
The distribution of marital assets during a California divorce is rarely a simple process, even for spouses who have very little marital property. For divorcing spouses with many assets or a complex financial portfolio, it becomes difficult to untangle.
A Lost Angeles complex property division attorney can help by doing the following:
- Requesting documents from the spouse during the discovery period
- Accurately assessing the value of assets
- Correctly classifying all assets as separate or marital
- Offering advice and counsel throughout the process of asset distribution
- Examining complex separate property claims
- Advising on the tax implications of property division decisions
- Enforcing prenuptial and postnuptial agreements in complex asset cases
- Liquidating assets
- Revising estate plans
Complex assets require complex strategies during the division of assets. At Fernandez & Karney, we take a resolution-based approach to all matters of your divorce settlement agreement but aren’t afraid to vigorously defend your rights and best interests throughout the process.
How Much Does a Los Angeles Complex Property Division Lawyer Charge?
No two marriages are the same and nor are any two divorces. While the average divorce in California costs around $15,000, some are far less expensive while others may cost far more. The amount you’ll pay for your attorney’s fees depends on many factors, including whether or not you and your spouse settle out of court or require courtroom litigation.
Complex asset divorces may require many hours of research and strategy, as well as consultation with divorce financial experts. Los Angeles divorce attorneys typically charge between $400 and $900 per hour. It’s important to discuss your attorney’s rates during your initial consultation, as well as ways to minimize costs.
When Should I Contact an Attorney?
In the best-case scenario, couples should consult an attorney before their marriage. A well-executed prenuptial agreement can protect both spouses during a lasting marriage or during a divorce if life takes them on an unanticipated path.
However, with or without a prenuptial agreement, a spouse should contact a complex property division attorney as soon as possible under either of the following circumstances:
- As soon as you come to the decision to divorce your spouse or when you realize divorce is inevitable in your situation. The sooner you hire an attorney, the sooner you can begin to protect important assets
- If you’ve been served with divorce papers from a spouse, you are the respondent in the case and should consult an attorney right away, since you have a time limit to file your response
If you’re in either position in Los Angeles, it’s critical to contact an attorney at Fernandez & Karney as soon as possible so we can begin a strategy.
Factors that Affect Property Division
The popular belief concerning divorce proceedings in the Golden State may be that a couple’s property is split fifty-fifty, but California family law is not quite so simple. Who gets what during marriage dissolution or legal separation may hinge on a multitude of factors, such as:
- When the property was acquired
- How the title is held
- What income was used to purchase it
- Whether the spouses moved in and out of state
- Whether some written agreement exist regarding the property
The Community Property Presumption
California law presumes that all property acquired during the marriage by either spouse – while a resident of the state – is community property. This includes real estate and personal property, and, in some cases, trusts. Whether the real estate is located outside of California, or movable property is transported outside the state, has little relevance, as long as the spouses retain a domicile in the state.
Under certain circumstances, any monetary award in a personal injury lawsuit could also be considered community property by California courts. The judge may designate liabilities, like credit card debt, as community property, too. However, even if ownership was acquired jointly during the marriage, a deed or another written document may specify that the property is separate.
The presumption in this context is rebuttable, which means that an attempt can be made in court to refute categorization of a particular valuable, for instance pension funds, as community property. However, an acceptable proof must be offered to convince the judge that an exception might apply: California case law requires at least a preponderance of evidence. But, different requirements (as to level of proof – or as to the conditions of validity of property transfer) may apply to different issues in each case, and the complexity may quickly increase because of the fiduciary nature of the relationship between married couples or domestic partners.
The California community property presumption is important for several reasons: for instance, community property cannot be sold or given away without the knowledge or the blessing of the other partner. Once the divorce proceedings begin, restrictions are automatically imposed to severely limit any property transactions, such as sale, gift, or borrowing against marital property in general.
Division of Property Basics
Court’s decision on what comprises marital community property determines the division of property during divorce, legal separation, or nullity proceedings. As a rule, the judge will divide community property between the spouses equally.
However, the domestic partners or spouses can avoid such property allocation if they either
- present a valid written agreement, like a prenup
- submit (to) a divergent division in open court
A married person can generally control their separate property independently of their spouse. There are exceptions: for instance, if one spouse files for annulment, divorce, or legal separation, temporary restrictions are placed on the sale of any separately owned real estate.
Separate property includes:
- All property the person owned before marriage, including any profit from such property
- Any property the individual inherited, or received as a gift after getting married – again, this encompasses any revenue from such property
- Any earnings and wealth acquired after the legal separation of the spouses (or domestic partners)
- Income earned while living apart and separately. This could include income of minor children who live with the spouse
Transmutation: Turning Separate Property Into Community Property
California Family Code § 850 allows spouses to transform the property from separate property to community property, or from community property to separate property if they both consent – for example by recording a title change: this is called transmutation.
Further, the separate property of one spouse can be transmuted into separate property of the other: if for instance, a wife decides to give her husband a sailboat, which she purchased as a single woman, the separate property of the wife becomes the separate property of the husband. In such instances, when property was acquired by one of the spouses before marriage, but the couple decided to change title after the marriage, to include both spouses as joint owners, the courts will assume such property is community property.
For transmutation to be effective, it must be in writing. Also, if it affects the rights of third parties, like creditors, they must be appropriately notified of such ownership change. But, say, a gift of small inexpensive jewelry between spouses generally doesn’t require a three-page contract to be valid, so exceptions do exist.
Valuation of Properties
Property valuation is one of the most contentious aspects of divorce in Los Angeles. After categorizing all assets as separate or marital property, both parties must accurately value their properties in order to begin the equal distribution process.
Property such as a marital home, rental property, vacation property, a business, or a farmstead requires appraisals so the spouses can negotiate a fair settlement agreement or a judge can decide how to fairly divide the property. Most complex property division attorneys use one or more of three common methods to value property:
- The market or sales comparison method compares each property to a similar one in the same area that is on the market or sold recently
- The capitalization of income method determines a property’s value by using the amount of net income a property generates
- The cost approach uses the principle of substitution to determine the cost of purchasing the same amount of land and building a home on a similar property with the presumption that no reasonable buyer would pay more than that amount for an existing property
Your Los Angeles complex property division lawyer will use one or more of the above methods to accurately asses each property in a complex property division case in California in order to represent your best interests.
Speak with a Los Angeles Complex Property Division Attorney Today
At Fernandez & Karney, we pride ourselves in providing complete and detailed information on topics that matter to you. If you need further assistance or want to speak with a Los Angels complex property division lawyer, please call us or schedule a free consultation.