As part of the dissolution process, spouses generally need to identify and value different types of properties. During the dissolution process, all property will need to either be divided or awarded to one of the spouses.
What is Asset Division?
During the initial phases of the divorce process, both spouses will have to disclose all assets and all debts regardless of whose name they are in. If your spouse does not disclose assets, you may need to subpoena various financial institutions to determine what assets are in the name of your spouse.
It is important to start to gather all of your financial documents prior to the filing of your divorce, this includes all bank statements, deeds to properties, statements for loans, retirement and investment accounts, vehicle titles. If a spouse willingly hides these assets, it could negatively impact their court case.
How Does the Process Begin?
The first step is to write down all accounts and property that you know as well as all credit cards, loans and student loans. It is also important for you to know the date that each debt was incurred, and each asset was acquired and if that date was before or after the date of marriage.
All assets are not calculated equally, there are times that your attorney or you may wish to have Experts such as a Financial Planner or an Accountant to assist you in valuing the property. If you or your spouse own a business, the process of dividing the business may be complicated so make sure that you have an attorney that works with experts to have an accurate business appraisal.
Family law courts are a court of equity and the Division of Property is treated like a business transaction. Spouses owe a high level of fiduciary duty to each other and the Courts require them to be honest about their assets and their debts.
You and your Spouse will be required to complete Preliminary Disclosures shortly after the Petition for Dissolution or Legal Separation has been filed. After those have been exchanged, you can discuss with your attorney if your case is ready for settlement discussions or if you need to have additional information obtained from your spouse.
As California is a Community Property State, the name in which an asset or debt is titled in does not necessarily determine whether or not that asset or debt belongs to one of the spouses. Credit cards that are used during the marriage can be the responsibility of both of the spouses. If there are claims that are certain asset is the separate property of one spouse, they will be required to trace the property to either an inheritance or show that it was acquired prior to the marriage and the character of that property has not changed.
Even if the parties agree as to the Division of Assets, they will still be required to exchange financial disclosures prior to entering into any agreement for a Final Judgment of Dissolution.