Under the California Family Code, the court must divide community property equally between spouses. However, not all property is community property. Under California law, a spouse generally is entitled to keep his or her separate property. A spouse’s separate property typically includes assets acquired by that person prior to marriage, by gift or inheritance at any time, from income earned after the date of separation, and assets that can be traced back to any of the above.
Some divorce cases hinge upon the determination of whether an asset is community property or separate property, or some combination of both. In making this determination, the court will look to the timing of the acquisition of the property, the source of funds used to acquire the property, how the property was titled, and whether or not there was any agreement between the spouses to change the character of the property. This evidence is developed by the attorneys working in conjunction with forensic accountants. A broad, complicated and nuanced body of law has developed around the characterization of property in California. Jaffe and Clemens lawyers have extensive knowledge and experience in addressing the complexities of characterizing businesses, pension plans, stock options, real property, intellectual property and other assets.