Trusted Complex Property Division Attorneys in Santa Monica, California

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At Fernandez & Karney, our experienced Santa Monica family law attorneys have over 120 years of combined experience and are highly skilled in handling every aspect of a California divorce, including high-asset divorces and complex property divisions.

Our law firm’s founders and managing partners, Steven Fernandez and Mark Karney, are Certified Family Law Specialists by the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization, who have the knowledge and resources to provide you with the quality legal representation you want and deserve. This is increasingly important in divorces involving complex property division, which is common in Santa Monica.

Property Division Attorneys

Fernandez & Karney is not just a law firm specializing in complex property division and high-asset divorce cases. We are a full-service family law firm that can assist you with any family law matter, regardless of its complexity, reassuring you that we are equipped to handle your unique situation. Meet with one of our skilled family law attorneys in Santa Monica during a confidential consultation today to learn more.

What is Community Property and Its Division Requirements During a California Divorce?

California law presumes that all property acquired during the marriage by either spouse—while a state resident—is community property. This includes real estate, 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 residence there.

The California community property presumption is essential for several reasons. For instance, community property cannot be sold or given away without the knowledge or blessing of the other partner. Once the divorce proceedings begin, restrictions are automatically imposed to severely limit property transactions, such as sale, gift, or borrowing against marital property.

What is Considered Separate Property and Does It Have to Be Divided During a California Divorce?

In California, separate property is generally defined as property that belongs to one spouse individually and is not considered community property.

That 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 marriage (and 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 the income of minor children who live with the spouse.

Separate property is not subject to division in the same way as community property unless:

  • Separate property is commingled with community property or used to acquire community property; it may lose its separate character and become subject to division.
  • Spouses agree to change the character of separate property to community property through a written agreement, called a transmutation agreement; the separate property may be subject to division.
  • Separate property contributes to the improvement or maintenance of community property; the contributing spouse may have a claim for reimbursement or a partial interest in the community property.

Santa Monica is widely recognized as one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Los Angeles County, and many marriages here involve high-net-worth individuals who often have diverse and substantial assets, including multiple properties, investments, business interests, retirement accounts, stock options, and valuable collections.

Dividing these assets equitably can be intricate and require expert valuation and negotiation, which is our specialized legal area. Our Santa Monica complex property division attorneys at Fernandez & Karney have the legal knowledge, resources, and skills to develop a customized legal strategy that prioritizes your best interests. Call us today to learn more.

When Does a California Divorce Involve Complex Property Division?

Divorces involving high-net-worth individuals often entail complex property division. This can include significant financial portfolios, valuable real estate holdings, luxury vehicles, art collections, jewelry, and other substantial assets.

Other common factors that require a skilled complex property division attorney in Santa Monica include but are not limited to:

  • Business Interests

When one or both spouses own businesses, partnerships, professional practices, or other closely held entities, dividing these assets requires careful valuation and consideration of each party’s contributions to the company during the marriage.

  • Stock Options and Equity Awards

Stock options, restricted stock units, and other equity-based compensation can complicate property division due to fluctuating value and complex tax implications.

  • Retirement and Pension Plans

Dividing retirement accounts, pensions, 401(k) plans, IRAs, and other retirement benefits often requires specialized valuation methods and the preparation of qualified domestic relations orders to ensure equitable distribution.

  • Real Estate Holdings

Marital properties, vacation homes, rental properties, and real estate investments may have complex ownership structures, mortgages, and valuation considerations that must be addressed during property division.

  • Tax Implications

Property division in California divorces must consider potential tax consequences associated with asset transfers, capital gains, alimony, and other financial transactions.

In some cases, forensic accounting may be necessary to uncover and accurately value marital assets in cases involving suspicion of hidden assets, income, or financial misconduct. In others, mediation or collaborative divorce processes may be beneficial in resolving complex property division issues amicably and efficiently.

Given the complexity of property division in these cases, spouses need to work with experienced attorneys and financial professionals who can navigate the intricacies of California divorce laws and help them achieve a fair and equitable division of assets and debts. We can help. Contact our skilled complex property division lawyers in Santa Monica today to discuss your unique legal requirements so we can build a customized strategy that meets your needs.

My California Spouse is Challenging Our Prenuptial Agreement: How Will That Impact Property Division During Our Divorce?

If your spouse challenges the validity or enforceability of your prenuptial agreement in California, this can significantly impact property division during your divorce if they are successful. If this is true in your case, you will need a seasoned divorce attorney to review the details of your agreement. We can help.

The spouse challenging the prenuptial agreement generally bears the burden of proving that the agreement is invalid or unenforceable. They may argue that the agreement was signed under duress, coercion, fraud, undue influence, or contains unconscionable terms.

While our skilled family law attorneys at Fernandez & Karney do not draft these essential legal documents, we do litigate all aspects of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Our priority is to uphold the agreement you and your spouses entered, no matter which side of the courtroom you are on.

If the court determines that the prenuptial agreement is valid and enforceable, it will generally be upheld. The agreement’s terms regarding property division will govern the distribution of assets and debts. In such cases, the prenuptial agreement will override California’s community property laws.


Contact Our Experienced Complex Property Division Attorneys in Santa Monica, California

If your California divorce involves a marital estate that includes high-value assets, businesses, investments, real estate holdings, intellectual property, or other complex financial instruments, contact our trusted complex property division attorneys in Santa Monica today for help. Allow us to use our over 120 years of combined experience to help you confidently move forward.

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