Whether you are getting ready to file for divorce, or already have, you probably have seen or heard the words “community property” and “separate property” many times. These are common family law terms that parties will need to understand throughout their proceeding for dissolution. Pursuant to Family Code section 760, “Except as otherwise provided by statute, all property, real or personal, wherever situated, acquired by a married person during the marriage while domiciled in this state is community property.” This statute is followed by Family Code section 770, which states, “Separate property of a married person includes all of the following: (1) all property owned by the person before marriage, (2) all property acquired by the person after marriage by gift, bequest, devise, or descent, and (3) the rents, issues, and profits of the property described in this section.” Continue reading
During marriage, neither spouse is supposed to devalue the community estate by wasting of assets. “Wasting” means spending community money for a non-marital purpose. The classic case has been the spouse who changes his lifestyle, often in the process acquiring a friend to whom the spouse gives money, pays expenses or buys gifts. The other spouse neither knows of these actions nor would approve of them if they were known. But the non-wasting spouse can attempt to recoup losses by negotiation or in court. Continue reading
Earlier this year, Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos announced his divorce from wife MacKenzie after 25 years of marriage and four children together. The couple met and married before Jeff founded Amazon. Jeff, who has a reported net worth of nearly $157 billion is the world’s richest man.
The couple, who allegedly did not have a premarital agreement, reside in Washington state. Washington is a community property state similar to that of California. That means that generally all assets and debts acquired during marriage will be divided equally.
Despite the couple’s massive estate, the couple finalized their divorce in July 2019, just 7 months after making the announcement. MacKenzie Bezos will get, amongst other property, 25% of the couple’s Amazon stock, an amount equal to roughly $38 billion. This stake in Amazon makes MacKenzie the third richest woman in the world. https://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-mackenzie-bezos-divorce-official-settlement-38-billion-2019-7 She has promised to donate at least half of her fortune to charity!
As we’ve mentioned many times over on this blog, support (both child support and spousal support) can be very complicated in California. In some instances, the relevant statutes provide the Court with vast discretion that needs to be clarified in subsequent court cases. One of those Court cases is the Pearlstein case which deals with the determination of income resulting from capital gains.
In Pearlstein, Husband sold a substantial amount of shares in a business. In consideration for the sale of his shares, Husband received shares of another business and cash. What Husband ended up doing with the stock and cash he received from the sale is the key to the case: he did not sell the shares and he reinvested the cash.
Bifurcation is an often underutilized procedure in civil cases (including family law cases) that, if used correctly, can significantly reduce the attorney fees and costs necessary to bring a case to a conclusion and can significantly increase the prospect of settlement.
So what is bifurcation exactly? In the process of bifurcation, the Court, usually on the motion of one of the parties, agrees to hear a trial on just one part of a case. Often times there are difficult issues, that once resolved, simplify the rest of the case. Continue reading
The question of a party’s income available for support has been the scourge of many attorneys and forensic accountants for a long time. It is a difficult and evolving issue, with new cases coming out honing and refining the interpretation of Family Code section 4058. Below, we take a look at a few common topics that are raised in child and spousal support cases.
If one party gets a seven figure inheritance from Great Aunt Birgit, is that income available for support? This was the question raised in County of Kern v. Castle. The Court determined that inheritances are not income available for the purposes of child support. Continue reading
Many people understand that, generally, confidential communications between a person and his or her attorney are protected by an evidentiary privilege called the attorney-client privilege. Evidence Code section 950-962 lays out in detail how the privilege works.
What this means is that if a party or attorney wanted to know the substance of a confidential communication between the other party and that party’s attorney, an objection of attorney-client privilege can be raised and the Court should sustain that objection (i.e. grant the request).
Only “confidential communications” are subject to the privilege and what defines a “confidential communication” has been up for debate. Certainly, there is a case that everyone should know about and those cases are the focus of this blog post. It turns out there are probably countless people sending communications to their attorneys thinking they are confidential when they are really not!
In Family Law, tracing is the method by which a party proves that funds in a particular account are, or were, used to acquire separate property. Family Code section 760 holds that all property acquired during a marriage, regardless of source, is community property, it can sometimes be a difficult and expensive endeavor to try to perform a tracing. In California Family Law, there are three ways to prove a tracing: 1) Direct Tracing; 2) Exhaustion 3) Total Marital Recapitulation.
Heidi Klum and Seal are officially divorced and back on the market. TMZ reports that their split was actually quite amicable and they had no issues with dividing property and figuring out spousal support thanks to a post-nuptial agreement that they signed after marriage. Although they did not have a pre-nup, their post-nup kept most of their earnings separate and their divorce process was streamlined because they didn’t fight over money. It is reported that neither party will get spousal support from the other and they have even worked out a custody agreement for their four children.
If couples, like Klum and Seal, marry without a prenuptial agreement (aka “pre-nup”) there is still an opportunity to enter into a legally binding agreement regarding property division and support in the event of a divorce. They can do so after they are already married in what is known as a post-nuptial agreement (aka “post-nup”). This is common when couples don’t like the stigma attached with a pre-nup, have a very short engagement and don’t necessarily have time to draft a pre-nup, have children from a previous marriage or perhaps their circumstances have changed such that they wish they would have taken the step to sign a pre-nup. Really the only difference between a pre-nup and a post-nup is that a post-nup is signed after marriage, rather than before. Other than that, it is still a legally binding agreement should the parties decide to get divorced later on.
A post-nup must be in writing and signed by both of the parties. While the parties are free to negotiate the terms of their post-nup, they should be fully informed about all of their assets and debts and they should be represented by independent counsel. Drafting a post-nuptial agreement is an opportunity for married couples to analyze their assets and debts and then set terms that are acceptable to both parties. It will allow the parties to gain a common understanding of how to handle contentious financial issues.A post-nup might include designations regarding which assets and debts are to be considered separate property, the amount of spousal support to paid to one party, the right to manage or dispose of property, the role of a spouse in a business, and division of community property in the event of a divorce or separation. A post-nup might also address how to divide money in a blended family where one or both spouses have children from a previous marriage. However, a post-nuptial agreement cannot address child custody or child support. If the parties’ marriage does eventually dissolve, the post-nup will essentially serve as the framework for drafting a marital settlement agreement.
Stars of the hit Food Network show Down Home with the Neelys, Gina and Pat Neely are getting divorced after twenty (20) years of marriage. Gina and Pat were high school sweethearts and have built a family brand consisting of products and restaurants across the United States. The Neely’s show Down Home with the Neelys is a cooking demonstration show that features the fun banter between husband and wife. Gina and Pat’s careers are so carefully intertwined with their relationship as a married couple that they will each have to pursue a new path after separation. In addition, the Neelys will have to divide up the empire they established throughout their twenty (20) years of marriage.
According to media reports covering the Neely divorce, the Neely’s were on the verge of separation when they were discovered by the Food Network and offered their own show in 2009. The Neelys were surprised when the show became a fast hit and decided to ride the wave out and garner fame. Pat Neely believes that his former wife will not sustain the same level of success after their separation because he was the only trained chef and because most of the recipes the couple featured are owned by his family. Gina plans to branch out and develop her own brand of Green Giant products.
Although the Neelys are getting a divorce, they do not plan to sell their popular barbeque restaurants. If the parties to a divorce reach an agreement regarding asset division outside of the courtroom, they have the ability to craft creative terms that fits the best interests of both parties. In the Neely divorce, the parties will be able to create a marital settlement agreement that allows them to keep their restaurants in tact while dividing responsibilities and income accordingly. The lawyers will have the difficult task of drafting appropriate enforceable provisions that allow the parties to continue to jointly own their restaurants.
When divorcing parties want to work towards an agreement whereby they continue to jointly own an asset after separation, an experienced family law attorney will carefully discuss the pros and cons of that arrangement with his or her client. While it will seem appealing for the parties to keep their assets in tact and still reap the profits, it can become complicated when the relationship changes between the parties. Depending on the level of animosity and the level of involvement necessary for the parties jointly own an asset, it may or may not be beneficial for a divorced couple to jointly retain property. One possible solution to the issues that arise when divorced parties who wish to jointly own an asset is to create an arrangement where the parties have the least amount of interaction possible. Overall these agreements can be successful if they are drafted properly and each party clearly articulates his or her expectations.