What will happen to my house after a divorce in California? 9 Answers as of February 15, 2011

I owned the house before we were married. My ex made some improvements to the house during our marriage. How will this house be affected by divorce under California family law?

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Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law
Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law | Diana K. Zilko
Typically, the marital community will have an interest for community property contributions made to your separate property. Depending on several factors, including whether there is equity in the property, and whether there was a prenuptial agreement, will play a role in how the house will be dealt with. If you have any further questions, please let me know.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 2/15/2011
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
If the funds used to improve your house were your husband's separate property funds, and the value of your house was enhanced by the amount of his separate property improvements, he may have a dollar-for-dollar right of reimbursement for his traceable separate property that went into your house. If the source of the improvement funds was community property, i.e., your husband's and/or your marital earnings, then the community may have such a dollar-for-dollar rightof reimbursement [your husband's share of the community reimbursement would be 1/2, and the other 1/2 would be your share]. However, if you and/or your expert can demonstrate with competent evidence that the value of your house was not enhanced by the improvements [as might be the case if your husband converted a bedroom into an office for his own use, and it didn't enhance the value of the house],you may be able to persuade theCourt not to allow reimbursement.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 2/14/2011
Michael Rose Attorney at Law
Michael Rose Attorney at Law | Michael Rose
Because the house was purchased before the marriage, it was purchased with separate money. There could be a claim on the house by your ex because of money spent to make improvements. Also how long were you married? This will make a difference also. Community money was used to pay the mortgage. Real property can be a complex issue in a marriage because of those factors. And if the down payment was borrowed from lets say a family member that may be an issue. So, when you have property it is wise to get an attorney and work it out. We charge a case flat fee and that flat fee depends on the work we do for you.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 2/14/2011
Michael Apicella
Michael Apicella | Apicella Law and Mediation
I'm assuming there is no premarital agreement that speaks to this house? If not, then California statutory and case law will apply.

The first step is to determine whether the house is separate or community property, or a mixture of both. Based on the limited facts you stated, it's not possible to state definitively whether the house is your separate property, with perhaps your ex having a right of reimbursement of any separate or community improvement contributions; or whether the asset has a mixed separate and community property components.

Depending on whether the house is characterized as completely separate property or separate and partial community property, the outcome will be different. If the former, there could be an issue of reimbursement. When you say your "ex made improvements," did your ex use separate or community funds for such improvements? Did the improvement increase the value of the house? Look up family code section 2640 (you can do a Google search) to get an idea of how a court will address the reimbursement issue.

Finally, is the house underwater or is there any equity based on its current value and outstanding loans? The answer to this question will have a significant impact on the disposition of this asset.

I suggest that you call a local family law lawyer and have a conversation in which you can discuss all the relevant facts so that attorney can provide you with a more accurate analysis.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 2/14/2011
Pisarra and Grist
Pisarra and Grist | David T. Pisarra
Well, any money that your ex paid towards the home, will create a Community Property interest in it, which means that they have some interest in the home. There are rules and cases that determine how much, and under what circumstances your ex will have an interest and you will have to buy them out.

In my book, A MAN'S GUIDE TO DIVORCE STRATEGY, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and my website as an e-book, there is more information on this issue and how the law handles both separate and community property.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 2/14/2011
    Law Office of Curry & Westgate
    Law Office of Curry & Westgate | Patrick Curry
    The house is your separate property subject to a community property interest due to payments and improvements.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 2/14/2011
    Goldberg Jones
    Goldberg Jones | Zephyr Hill
    Unfortunately this question cannot be answered with the information you provided. But in general, you will have to find out what reimbursements he is owed and or what interest in the appreciation he has gained during the marriage due to any payments on the mortgage. Since you owned the house before marriage, and you never put his name on title, you should be in good shape to keep the home. But, you will need to crunch the numbers.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 2/14/2011
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn | Paul Zahn
    This question depends upon when the home was purchased. Improvements will factor into the determination, but so will principal reduction payments. The assistance of an experienced attorney can help you achieve the best possible result. Please contact me for a free consultation.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 2/14/2011
    Diefer Law Group, P.C.
    Diefer Law Group, P.C. | Abel Fernandez
    If here were improvements made during the marriage and mortgage payments, the community would have an interest in the home.

    You have to do a Moore-Marsden calculation to calculate how much he is entitled to from the house. The community (both of you as spouses) have made improvements to the home and paid on the mortgage so even though you bought before marriage he would have interest in home.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 2/14/2011
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