Character of the Family Home

By Schonauer Law on Dec 28, 2015 at 03:50 PM in Legal Questions

Character of the Family Home

A family’s largest investment is often the home they live in.  A family home is can be purchased and financed in a variety of ways.  When a family dissolves, one household becomes two, and community property must be divided.  It is difficult to determine each spouse’s respective ownership interest in the family residence, even experienced attorney’s get it wrong.

Regarding property owned by divorcing spouses, the court is tasked with its characterization.  Property, real or personal (assets), may be characterized in three ways, separate, community, and quasi-community.

Characterization of property is not an all or nothing proposition.  A particular asset may be all separate property, all community property, or a mix.  Regarding the family home, a mix is often the situation.  When a family home is a mix of both separate and community property, it's difficult to determine where the line should be drawn.

Home Purchased during the Marriage

Property purchased during the marriage generally takes two different forms.  If a couple used community money for a down payment (e.g. wage earned during the marriage) and the community is responsible for the mortgage (debt.) the house will likely be fully owned by the community.  Upon dissolution, barring any improvements, the spouses will split the equity in the house equally.

If one spouse provided separate property as a down payment, the down payment will continued to belong to the spouse who provided it.  Upon dissolution, the spouse who contributed separate property for a down payment will usually receive a dollar for dollar reimbursement and the remaining equity is split equally.

Improvements to home purchased during a Marriage (Stay tuned)

I am licensed in California only. The above information is based upon California Law. The above information is not based upon your particular facts, and as such is not legal advice. For a more complete information, based upon your particular situation, I advise that you consult with an attorney.