Articles Tagged with santa rosa division of property attorney

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complex divorceA complex divorce involving a large and complicated portfolio, may require an attorney who knows precisely what documents are relevant as you proceed through divorce court. More often than not, having access to both personal and corporate records has the potential to provide an accurate picture of the financial state of things, which is essential when it comes to an equitable financial settlement as your marriage ends. Regardless of how much you may have trusted your spouse, you have to allow for the possibility that efforts will be made to avoid sharing assets and funds. Going forward with as much information as possible can only benefit you.

Records Worth Investigating in a Complex Divorce

If one spouse owns a business that is subject to community property laws in California, things can get complicated pretty quickly. Depending on your circumstances, a variety of records could be helpful as financial negotiations proceed, including the following:

  • Financial Statements: Obviously, personal and corporate bank statements for several years will reveal both personal and corporate health. Patterns will be examined, and any recent changes will be analyzed.
  • Tax Documents: Tax returns are particularly insightful because they tend to reveal an accurate picture of the financial state of affairs. Falsification of these documents could lead to perjury charges, fines, and prison time, which compels typical filers to be fairly straightforward. Comparing tax returns to other financial statements that are less aggressively examined by the federal government will either support a reported financial scenario, or will reveal inconsistencies.
  • Work papers from Company Accountants: These papers may inform investigators as to the foundational thinking behind the use of particular figures or transactions.  
  • Ledgers: These will be examined with an eye toward understanding the overall financial status of the business. They will reveal specific details regarding disbursements, expenditures, and expensing.
  • Bill Receipts: It is essential to know whether particular disbursements were for business or personal matters.
  • Insurance Policies: Business interruption insurance policies that seem extravagant in the face of claims of a poorly performing business may indicate underreporting of profits. In an unrelated situation, personal items that you have no clue exist may be being insured.
  • Company Brochures: If the company claims to be # 1 on the West Coast, but your spouse pleads failing profits, you can use advertisements and brochures to challenge the inconsistency.
  • Lease Agreements: If your spouse claims business is doing poorly, it could be useful to look at whether downsizing is in the works.  
  • Calendars: Calendars may reveal how busy the business is, the amount of vacation time being taken, and other factors worth knowing.

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pet custodyPet custody in a divorce was not unlike the all too familiar division of property, splitting up the furniture and deciding who gets the car. For some couples, things got significantly more challenging when it came to deciding what happens to the family pets. If you are besieged with this issue, a local divorce attorney can help.

Pet Custody Previous to This Law

In the past, pets have been considered property, to be given to one party in exchange for something of equivalent value. That has been markedly dissatisfying to many divorcing couples as well as to attorneys and judges who have witnessed the emotional strings that are attached to many animals who are truly considered part of the family. One attorney noted that clients have spent thousands of dollars trying to secure a beloved pet, with one woman spending more than $30,000 in a legal battle for custody. The fact of the matter is, judges have struggled with making the right decision in these circumstances, as well.

Methods to Determine Pet Custody

Some of the strategies used in court illuminate just how difficult this decision can be. Some of the ways judges have approached the decision include:

  • Putting the pet in between the divorcing spouses to see which person the pet prefers;
  • If there are two pets, splitting them up and giving one to each partner;
  • Assigning custody arrangements by alternating weeks or months;
  • One person is assigned custody, and the other is given visitation privileges;

Pet Custody and Impacts on the Pet

Divorce can be very stressful, and not just for the humans involved. Animal advocates point out that significant changes can take a toll on any pet’s well-being, leading to depression and other signs of anxiety, including:

  • Excessive sleeping;
  • Declining appetite;
  • No interest in the usual daily activities, like taking walks;
  • Unusual whimpers or cries;
  • Having accidents indoors;
  • Unusual grooming, licking, or self-biting.

AB 2274

Assembly Bill 2274, recently signed into law, takes more factors into account than previous law, which viewed the pet based on its financial value. Now, the animal’s well being, as well as issues related to the care of the animal, will be weighed. Is the animal bonded to children? If so, it may go where the kids go. Are there multiple pets in the home? Are they bonded to one another? What would the impact of splitting them up be?  Who was responsible for the feeding, grooming, and general care of the pet? Who took the animal to the vet? Who has the financial and time resources to provide continued care for the pet? All of these factors may be considered as the pet’s ultimate location is determined. Continue reading →

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hidden assetsNeed help finding hidden assets? If you are considering, or midway through a divorce, there is the possibility that your spouse would like to hang on to more than his or her fair share of the marital assets. In some cases, there may have been a secret cache throughout the entire marriage, while in other situations, a hasty burial of resources may be underway.  In any case, the only way to get a fair shake is to uncover whatever it is that your spouse would like to hide. An experienced local divorce attorney could be key to success in that department.

Finding Hidden Assets – What Should You Look for?

All kinds of assets could be hidden. Among the most common are:

  • Stocks;
  • Cash;
  • Mutual funds;
  • Insurance policy cash value;
  • Bonds;
  • Gun collections;
  • Artwork and antiques;
  • Other undervalued property.

How and Where to Look

How does one go about finding hidden assets? Those experienced in the matter have several ideas. It is essential to request documentation relating to all financial accounts and records when your divorce is in the discovery phase.

  • Start with tax returns. Since most people do what they can to avoid the ire of the IRS, you might find indications of resources you had no idea about previously. Going back through documents for a minimum of five years should reveal inconsistencies that could be important.
  • Checking accounts could reveal surprises like investment properties or other income-generating enterprises.  
  • Records from savings accounts may point you toward closeted assets that your spouse would like to keep mum about. Look for unusual deposits and/or withdrawals.
  • Look into courthouse documents, where loan applications can be found. It is important to take a peek at such applications because assets and value estimations will be there.
  • The county tax assessor will have records related to land or home purchases.
  • New purchases for artwork, antiques, vehicles, and so forth might be a prime place to hide assets, as your spouse undervalues such items.
  • Custodial accounts are a prime place to place money under a child’s social security number.
  • Investments with unreportable interest, such as certain bonds, are easy to hide because many spouses are unaware of their existence.
  • Find out if your spouse’s employer is delaying a bonus, stock option, or other benefit in order to protect it from you.
  • Assets might also be hidden with other friends or family, so looking into those relationships might be worthwhile.

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family petCustody of the family pet as a negotiation tool in a divorce? Divorce can involve much more than property disputes and ways to carve up assets and debts. If you are concerned about what is going to happen to Fido when the split occurs, you are not alone. After all, about half of marriages in this country wind up in divorce, and over 60% of households have a pet. So, when the marriage comes to an end, where do the cuddly creatures wind up?

It can be a Battle if You Both Love the Family Pet

If you are a pet owner, you may not find it hard to believe that many individuals cannot imagine life without coming home to a wagging tail or a purring pet. Many people have extremely tight connections with their family pet. Particularly when they have been in a loveless marriage, people tend to look for affection and comfort from the non-judgmental, unfiltered adoration of their pets.  When both partners have that kind of bond with a pet, there is a good possibility that neither will feel good about losing that connection, and the courts may have to intervene.

Using a Family Pet as Leverage in a Divorce

Sometimes only one partner is particularly attached to the family pet, and the other partner knows it and uses that information as a weapon in the divorce.  Nasty divorces are certainly not the exception. If you cherish your pet, do not be surprised if your vengeful spouse uses it as a negotiation tool. The threat to gain custody in order to get you to give up something of financial value is not unheard of. Do not give in to extortion. California is a community property state.  The pet is worth a certain dollar amount, in many cases not more than the value of your patio furniture. Do not be bullied into giving up the equity in your home to keep your furry friend.

Keeping Your Family Pet

If it comes down to a judicial decision, several factors will come into play in determining pet custody. In many ways, the court considers what is in the best interest of the pet:

  • Is there a prenuptial agreement dealing with custody? If so, that may solve the problem.
  • Did one of you own the pet prior to getting married? If so, that person may have a stronger claim to the pet.
  • Who is the pet’s primary caregiver? The feeding, medical care, and cleanup responsibilities may indicate that one person is a better or more consistent caregiver. You could get evidence of this, such as letters from neighbors attesting to the fact that you regularly walk the pooch, or a note from the vet extolling your fantastic pet-parenting skills. Even receipts from the pet store showing that you made pet purchases, or the pet license with your signature on it are indicators that you are the primary individual who cares for your pet.
  • Whose life is best equipped to handle a pet? Where you live, the hours away from home, and the travel schedule you keep are all under consideration in a contested pet-custody case.

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Hiding AssetsHiding assets in a California divorce? Divorcing couples are required to divide their assets in order to go their separate ways. Since California is a community property state, anything accumulated during the marriage must be divided equally. Sounds simple, right? What if you suspect your soon-to-be ex is hiding assets to which you are legally entitled? It happens more than you might think, and that is precisely why effective legal representation is a must.

Dirty Tricks

The higher earning spouse may have a number of sneaky maneuvers planned in order to keep more than his or her fair share of your accumulated earnings:

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community property divisionCommunity property division in a California Divorce. There is no question but that divorce can be ugly and difficult, or amicable and seamless. Here is something not everyone thinks about right off the bat: divorce can be expensive! Just look at some of these celebrity settlements:

  • Rupert & Anna Murdoch: Rupert forked over $110 million in cash as part of a $1.7 billion settlement;
  • Mel & Robyn Gibson: The couple decided an even split of Mel’s $850 million net worth was fair;
  • Michael & Juanita Jordan: In what appeared to be an amicable settlement, Michael agreed to a $168 million settlement.
  • Steven Spielberg & Amy Irving: Amy walked away with $100 million after four years of marriage;
  • Madonna & Guy Ritchie: Madonna paid Ritchie somewhere between $76 and $92 million.
  • Kevin Costner & Cindy Silva: Costner parted with $80 million.

It is guaranteed that none of these celebs took on a divorce without competent legal help, and neither should you.

Community Property Division in California

While you may not be a millionaire, you should be clear about the fact that every penny of your shared marital assets is fair game in a divorce. California is a community property state. That means that all assets and debts accrued during the marriage are evenly divided between the divorcing spouses. Whether you own a mansion or are renting an apartment, here is some legal lingo with which you should be familiar:

  • Marital Property: This includes any earnings that occurred during the marriage, and items obtained with those earnings.  The same goes for debt.
  • Separate Property: This refers to assets accrued prior to the marriage, as well as inheritances, gifts, pension proceeds that were vested prior to the marriage, and items purchased with separate funds. These monies stay with the person who had them to start with.
  • The Marital Home: Generally the home may stay in the hands of the custodial parent if there are children involved. That parent would be responsible for the mortgage and associated costs, barring a huge income disparity between the parties. Once the children are no longer minors, the house could be sold and the proceeds divided.
  • Retirement Benefits: Depending on the type of plan, one party may choose to cash-out another, or benefits may be shared as they are paid out.

What About Community Property Division and the Engagement and Wedding Ring?

What if the engagement ring was a family heirloom that had passed through the giver’s family for generations? Does the giver have any hope of getting it back? The courts say no—rings purchased and exchanged prior to the I do’s count as personal, separate property, regardless of sentimental value (California Civil Code 1590).  

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transmutationTransmutation of assets and debts in a California divorce. One of the most difficult aspects facing divorcing couples, aside from issues of child support and child visitation, is the issue of division of property. Some of the most contentious aspects of divorces stem from the identification of separate vs. community property. Since California is a community property law state, the identification of property as either separate or community is critical.

Separate property is defined as any property that a spouse owned prior to marriage, received by gift or inheritance during the marriage, or acquired after the date of separation. Community property is presumed to be any property that was acquired by the couple during the marriage that is not a separate property gift or inheritance. Because California is a community property state, if the parties go to trial with no agreement as to the division of the community property, the court only has the authority to divide the community property equally between the parties on a 50/50 basis. The parties can agree to divide the community property in an unequal division, but their agreement must be in writing, signed by both parties and filed with the court. The separate property of each spouse remains that party’s separate property and will not be divided. For this reason, whether the transmutation of a property is found to have occurred during the marriage is critical to the division of property.

In divorce proceedings, under California law, the transmutation of property occurs when the character of the personal or real property at issue has been “transmuted” or changed from either separate property to community property, or vise versa. See Family Code §850-853.

Why is This Important to Know?

The issue of transmutation of property is important to know for two very critical reasons. First, transmutation may occur unintentionally, without the parties knowing it; and second, it may not seem important to the parties unless they are facing divorce and then it may be too late to do anything about it.

An Example of the Transmutation of Real Property

Say the husband purchases a piece of income property prior to marriage. After marriage, wanting to take advantage of a lower interest rate, he decides to refinance the property. Both husband and wife sign the loan documents in order for the couple to qualify for the refinanced loan. At the end of the refinance transaction, husband signs a deed transferring title to the property from himself to both he and his wife. Husband has effectively transmuted his separate interest in the real property to the community. This is only one example of how separate property can be transmuted into community property.

Family Code §852 – Requirement of a Written Declaration

Before 1985, married couples could effectively transmute their separate property to community property by “words” alone. This led to major difficulties for the court in its efforts to determine who said what and when, or who was telling the truth about the transmutation and who was not.

After the enactment of Family Code §852, the law required that any attempts to transmute the character of any property during the course of a marriage must be evidenced by a writing and signed by the party to be charged.  For more information on this issue, please consult a family law attorney. Continue reading →

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