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Who keeps the house in a high asset California divorce?

There are many uncertainties involved with a divorce. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement on record defining the division of assets or spousal support, it can be hard to know what to expect. In general, the higher the overall value of your assets, the more likely you are to experience a contentious and difficult divorce.

After all, chances are good that you and your spouse don't agree on how to divide your belongings. One of the biggest points of contention in many divorces is ownership of the marital home. The asset division process can become quite complicated when spouses don't agree on terms. Given that homes are often the biggest investment people make throughout their lives, it's no wonder that both of you want to keep your interest in the home.

In most cases, the home is part of your community property

For most married couples in California, the home they purchased and shared during marriage will be community property in the eyes of the courts. Even if only one spouse contributed to the down payment or mortgage payments, the courts will consider the equity in the home community property. Thus, it is subject to division between both spouses.

In some cases, however, the home may be separate property. If the home was part of an inheritance or left to one spouse or a gift from family members, for example, that could mean the home is separate property. Similarly, if one spouse already owned the home at the time of marriage, separate property laws may apply then as well. In most other cases, however, homes are community property when it comes to asset division in California divorces.

Sometimes, one spouse keeps the house

The courts will consider many factors when determining how to handle the primary residence and other real estate in your divorce. They will look at the length of the marriage, the contributions of both spouses, child custody and support arrangements, and spousal support as well.The courts will try to minimize the impact of the divorce on the children as much as possible.

However, for the custodial parent to take ownership of the home, generally he or she will need to qualify for a mortgage for the property. The existing mortgage must be refinanced to remove the other spouse from both the note for the mortgage and the deed for the property. If one spouse is unable to secure financing, that could also impact the court's decision.

Even if one spouse receives ownership of the home, the other spouse will generally receive a fair share of the equity in the home. That amount could come from refinancing with cash or through allocation of other valuable assets, such as a retirement account or other real estate assets.

Sometimes, no one keeps the home

In situations where neither spouse can finance the property alone, where the home value is below the outstanding balance on the mortgage or where accrued equity in the property is minimal, the courts may simply order the sale of the home to simplify the asset division process.

Understanding that there are many factors in play here, it's important to prepare yourself for the potential need to move or refinance during a divorce.

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