There are three major components of resolving property division issues: (1) characterization, (2) valuation, and (3) division. Each party in a marital action has a duty to disclose all assets and liabilities they have an interest in, or may have an interest in.
Property is characterized as “community property,” “separate property,” or a mix of community and separate property. Property is community property if it is acquired during marriage with community property assets such as wages. Property is separate regardless of when it was acquired with assets in which the community has no interest, such as gifts and inheritances. Property is mixed when there is a community property and separate property interest.
Property is valued a number of different ways, depending on the property. Houses are valued by a certified real estate appraiser. Pensions are valued by specialized experts. Personal property is valued at its garage sale value. Generally, property should be valued as close as possible to the date of resolution (trial, mediation, etc.). Some property is valued in sentimental value as opposed to monetary value.
Property division is limited only by one’s imagination. The court requires an equal division of property. However, parties are free to determine what is equal. One party may want a certain item of property because the sentimental value to them is greater than the monetary value. Other assets, such as pensions and retirement accounts are generally divided equally among spouses. At RELM, we emphasize property divisions that promote our clients’ goals.