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Proving separate property in a California divorce

On Behalf of | Sep 13, 2021 | High-net Worth Property Division |

A California divorce can become contentious when sorting and separating significant assets. This is especially true if your marriage lasted several years or decades. You can potentially sort the following types of property into the categories of yours, mine and ours:

  • Investments
  • Business interests
  • Bank accounts
  • Jewelry
  • Real estate
  • Vehicles

The “ours” category is marital or community property.

According to the California Courts, community property includes everything that you and your spouse own together. This encompasses assets you bought or received during your marriage. On the surface, it appears simple. However, commingling can make identifying separate vs. marital property a challenge.

Identifying commingled property

Commingling community property with separate property is common. For example, you had a bank account before the marriage. Later you added your spouse’s name so both of you make deposits and withdrawals. The account now contains commingled money. Your home may be an example of commingled property if your spouse sold a home before your marriage and used the proceeds for the purchase of the marital home. The funds are separate, while the home is marital property. The burden of proving the origin of assets becomes the responsibility of the spouse claiming the property is separate.

Tracing separate funds and property

Documentation is essential for proving separate property. However, if your marriage lasted many years, you may not have all of the receipts or proof needed for determining separate property.  As a result, you may require a tracing professional who can help untangle commingled property questions. This person may use direct tracing or family expense presumption tracing methods when characterizing the property.

Your high-asset divorce can become complicated quickly. Understanding your options can help you keep the separate property and achieve a settlement commiserate with the length of your union.