Getting married often feels like giving up most of your personal space and rights. Suddenly, there is someone else with a claim to your time and your money. You will likely live together and pool all of your resources, which can lead to challenges if you eventually go your separate ways.
You may feel like you have plenty of protection from property division headaches because you already owned your house at the time of your divorce. What you may not understand is that California’s community property laws blur the lines between what belongs to you and what belongs to your spouse after you get married.
How could your home become community property?
Some people who own their own homes will sign prenuptial agreements with their spouses or negotiate postnuptial agreements during times of marital hardship. Those without such agreements do have to worry about whether their home will be vulnerable in divorce proceedings.
Community property laws do recognize that what you owned before marriage was your separate property. However, you will almost certainly need to use marital property to help maintain the home. From paying for new windows to covering your annual property tax costs, marital resources may go toward the maintenance and upkeep of your separate property. That is a sort of commingling that can give your spouse at least a partial interest in the property.
There are also your spouse’s direct contributions, such as work around the home, that may strengthen their claim to an interest in the property. At least some of its value may be at risk in your divorce proceedings.
How can you protect your home?
You could still potentially negotiate a postnuptial agreement with your spouse that will help you protect your home in the event of a divorce. However, if your relationship has already started souring, they may not willingly waive their interest in the home at this point.
You may need to prepare for negotiations. The two of you can always settle property division matters yourselves, splitting things in a way that you both think is fair. You can keep the home, while your spouse may get other property that is important to them. If you do have to litigate, you may be able to impress upon a judge the importance of you keeping the physical home even if you have to share some of its value with your spouse in the divorce.
Learning the basics of property division proceedings in California divorces can help you prepare the best strategy for your day in court.