Property division can be a challenging aspect of divorce in California. A married couple can accumulate many assets, including vehicles, homes, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and businesses. Dividing marital property in a split takes assessing the value of everything you own as a couple. That way, you or the courts can divide property as fairly as possible. Different types of assets require different assessments.
Discuss Your Desires With Your Spouse
In California, the courts will first allow you and your spouse to figure out property division alone before involving a judge. You will have the opportunity to discuss which assets each spouse wishes to keep. In many cases – especially those that do not involve high-value assets – a couple can divide assets without court intervention.
In these cases, it may not be necessary to determine the precise value of each possession. You can divide things more or less equally according to estimated values and emotional sentimentality. One spouse may get to keep the house, for example, but will pay the couple’s marital debts. Mediation with help from an attorney can help you and your spouse agree on property division and avoid a trial.
Get a Real Estate Appraisal
If you and your spouse cannot agree on property division, the matter may go before a judge. In these situations, start evaluating your assets by scheduling a home appraisal. An appraiser will visit your home in person for an inspection. The appraiser will look at the exterior and interior of your home, as well as any property. A professional appraisal from an unbiased third party is necessary to know the value of your home. The appraisal can serve as evidence of the market value of the home at the time of the divorce.
Calculate Assets of Significant Value
Most divorce cases do not require a couple to determine the values of every object the couple owns. Household goods and furniture, for example, may not need appraisals unless they are worth a significant amount of money, such as antiques. Instead, focus on high-value assets within the marriage. These may include artwork, jewelry, vehicles and businesses.
If you do wish to divide clothing and other regular goods in a divorce settlement, you and your spouse can do so informally. The courts will not divide these items for you. Use the resale value to assess each item, not the price the item was at the time of purchase. Look at resale sites such as Craigslist or eBay to find comparable prices for each item during your evaluation. You and your spouse can then decide how to divide household goods appropriately.
Check Kelley Blue Book for Vehicle Values
Assess any jointly owned vehicles by figuring out their Kelley Blue Book values. The courts will accept vehicle evaluations through the Kelley Blue Book or the National Automobile Dealer Association. Print out your evaluation documents or bring photocopies to the judge. These are typically acceptable forms of evidence to determine the current market values of vehicles. Note, however, that collectible or high-value cars may need professional appraisals for accurate assessments.
Add Up Bank Accounts and Financial Assets
You and your spouse can add up the account balances of any shared or individual accounts acquired during the marriage. If you share unvested stocks, however, you may need a financial adviser to give you accurate values. Do not forget to also tally up your debts, including balances you owe on credit cards, mortgages and loans.
Evaluate a Business
If you and your spouse own a business together, you will need to calculate the value of each spouse’s ownership interest. Hire a forensic accountant to evaluate the assets and debts connected to the business, as well as its profitability. The accountant will assess the increase in value the business has experienced over the years, if any, and set a valuation date. Working with the right professionals can help you and your spouse achieve accurate evaluations of all marital properties during a divorce in California.