In San Diego, the divorce process can range between six months and several years. This significant time span can have a serious impact on value of assets. Considering the volatility of the stock market and real estate prices, the date of valuation can become a contested issue. Consider the following example: During marriage Husband created and operated a business. After separation, Husband continued to expend efforts and the value of the business grew substantially. By the time of trial the value of the business is triple than at the time of separation.
All property acquired and all income earned during marriage is community property. Upon divorce, both parties have a one-half interest in the community's portion of an asset. Because the business was created during marriage and Husband expended efforts in the business during marriage, a portion of that business is community property. Therefore, Wife will argue that for the purposes of division, the business should be valued at the time of trial. Husband, on the other hand, will argue that the business should be valued as of the date of separation.
Under California Family Code section 2552, "for the purpose of division of the community estate upon dissolution of marriage or legal separation of the parties...the court shall value the assets and liabilities as near as practicable to the time of trial." Thus, as a general principle of law, assets are valued at the time of trial. However, the court may, for good cause, value all or any portion of the assets and liabilities at a date after separation and before trial to accomplish an equal division of the community estate in an equitable manner.
California courts have determined that good cause exists to value an asset at the date of separation rather than the date of trial if the increase in the fair market value was due to the owner's personal services, not capital assets. This means that if the value increased due to market fluctuations or other outside factors, the asset will be valued at or as near as possible to trial. However, if goodwill, accounts receivable, or other efforts by the owner lead to an increase in value, the asset will be valued at the date of separation.
Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.