With estimates of the US divorce rate ranging from 40 to 50 percent, divorce is an issue that affects almost everyone at some point of another, either as a child or as an adult. One of the most complex issues surrounding divorce, especially for some families, is the issue of property division. The division of property between divorcing spouses requires full disclosure of the financial resources of both spouses.  

Community Property Theory Is Deceptively Complex

There are two main legal theories that govern divorce-initiated property division in the various US states: the equitable division theory and the community property theory. California is a community property state. Many people think of community property as a simple matter – “each spouse gets half.” With the law, however, it’s rarely that simple, and it isn’t that simple in the case of California community property law. 

Misconceptions about Community Property

In a California divorce, a court will divide all spousal property into two categories: community property and separate property. Generally speaking, community property is split equally between the spouses while separate property is returned to whoever owns it. Misconceptions abound, however, about what constitutes community property and what constitutes separate property.

Some of the most common misconceptions are:

  • Property owned in the name of one spouse belongs to that spouse. In fact, California family law courts generally ignore formal legal ownership.

  • Property inherited by one spouse is shared equally by both spouses. This is generally not the case – inherited property is usually considered the separate property of the spouse who inherited it.

Required Financial Disclosures

Because of the complexity of California community property law, the court ultimately decides who gets what if the divorcing spouses cannot agree between themselves. It is for this reason, and because of the possibility of fraud and misunderstanding of the law, that California law requires both spouses to present to the court full disclosure of their financial assets in order to determine property division.

The two main forms that must be presented to the court during the course of preliminary financial disclosures are:

Consequences of Failure to Disclose

During a California divorce, failing to disclose the full extent of your assets and liabilities (even if it turns out to be your separate property) can have serious consequences. Imagine failing to disclose the existence of a condominium in Hawaii that is actually only half yours, only to see all of it awarded to your spouse during divorce proceedings because of your attempt to conceal its existence. In extreme cases, even criminal penalties carrying years of prison time are possible.

CKB Vienna Will Help You Fight for Justice

If you are involved in a divorce where significant financial assets are at stake, or if you anticipate becoming involved in such a divorce, don’t try to handle it alone. Call CKB Vienna today or contact us online to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. 

We serve clients in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Riverside County.