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About the Division of Property in California

The division of the family home often lies at the center of a divorce dispute, and for good reason — for most families, the home constitutes their most valuable asset, and this can be further complicated by emotional and social connections that are intrinsically tied to the home itself (i.e., neighborhood, school district, family memories, etc.).

Is Keeping the House Your Best Option?

As an initial matter, it is worth considering whether you should keep the house during a divorce. Though it may have been practically worthwhile as a married couple, changing circumstances (financial, emotional, social, vocational, etc.) may have altered the calculus for owning the home. At McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau, LLP, our divorce attorneys work closely with clients to evaluate the legal and practical impact of owning the house in a divorce.

“Splitting” the home may not even be relevant if it is separate property under California law. Property acquired before marriage is presumed to be separate property, while property acquired after marriage is presumed to be community property (and thus, potentially accessible to both spouses), though there are a number of exceptions that you’ll want to navigate with the assistance of a qualified family law attorney. For example, if your name is not on the title of the house, then that could complicate matters considerably.

Strategic Options for Resolving Ownership of the Family Home

In the event that the house is deemed “community property” and as such, must be divided between both spouses, there are a few different ways that the distribution issue can be resolved in California:

Sell the Property (and Share Proceeds)

The spouses can put the house up for sale and divide the proceeds from the sale of the house. Selling the property may be an ideal choice if the spouses do not have an emotional connection to the house, or do not have the desire to maintain and own the home by themselves.

Taking Full Ownership

An alternative option is for a spouse to purchase the other spouse’s share of the house, thus taking full ownership of the property. The selling spouse could then be removed from the property title. One spouse taking full ownership of the home is the best option if the purchasing spouse has the desire and means to fully control and maintain the home.

Delaying the Sale

In many cases, the spouses may have a temporary need for the house (for various practical reasons, such as keeping their children in the same school district until they graduate), but may want to sell the house after that temporary need is satisfied. Under those circumstances, the spouses can agree to delay the sale of the house and own the property on a joint basis until the temporary need is satisfied — through the court will consider a variety of factors in issuing this order, including the emotional and financial impact of a delayed sale.

A Stockton Property Division Lawyer Can Help Identify Your Options

Here at the Stockton divorce law firm of McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau, LLP, our attorneys have decades of experience working with clients who are involved in challenging divorce proceedings, including those in which there is a dispute over property or assets.

We are committed to close engagement with our clients from beginning-to-end, ensuring that we have the details and insight necessary to advocate more effectively on their behalf over the course of the divorce proceedings. This commitment is fundamental to high-quality divorce advocacy, as the dispute often turns on a few seemingly “minor” issues.

If you’d like to speak to an experienced Stockton divorce lawyer at MCJG, contact us online to schedule a consultation or call us at 209-477-8171. Though we are located in Stockton, CA, we serve clients throughout the state of California, including the Central Valley.

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