Filing For Divorce Triggers The Court’s Authority to Divide Marital Property

There are many reasons why spouses put off filing for divorce. Very often, when there are children involved, the parents may want to protect their kids from the disruptive nature of divorce and decide to delay instituting the proceedings. And some parties resist filing for divorce for financial concerns: once the filing is done, the court is required to characterize and divide the community property. California law applies to family court matters arising in San Diego and throughout the state. If you are considering filing for divorce, it is best to be armed with as much information about the process and the local laws and procedures, before taking that step. An experienced family law attorney would be able to guide you through this emotional and complicated process.

A widely publicized news story involving the owners of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald and Shelly Sterling, illustrates one spouse’s reluctance to file for divorce for fear that as soon as she does, ownership of the team will fall under the jurisdiction of the California court system. Under California law, all property accumulated during the marriage is considered “community property” subject to division between the parties. Because of the way the law operates, filing for divorce would theoretically entitle Shelly Sterling to 50 percent of the team’s ownership. According to news reports, the NBA is seeking to force a sale of the team due to Donald Sterling’s racist comments about African Americans.

But once Shelly Sterling files for divorce, the Los Angeles Clippers will become one of the couple’s marital assets subject to division by a local family court. There has been some speculation that if and when Mrs. Sterling files the papers, it could take a very long time for the court to sort through the couple’s community property in order to divide it up evenly. In fact, the court could issue a temporary restraining order, thereby prohibiting a sale of any asset considered community property.

While many of the circumstances surrounding this potential divorce case render it unique, much of the underlying legal principles do apply to most divorce proceedings throughout California. One of the most important financial aspects of a divorce concerns the division of property. Spouses often disagree about what is community and separate property, respectively. This phase of the proceedings is extremely significant: it can determine each spouse’s financial position going forward, once the divorce is finalized. There are a variety of factors to consider, namely whether the asset was acquired during the marriage, and whether the item was a gift or part of an inheritance.

The importance of being represented by an experienced family law attorney at this stage of the proceedings cannot be overstated. Parties may not realize the breadth of assets that may be deemed community property. And in some unfortunate cases, one spouse may attempt to hide assets from the other. The California Court website suggests that the cost of making a mistake is so high that you should talk to an attorney before filing your case, especially if you have anything of value.

Mr. Doppelt is an experienced divorce attorney representing families for more than 20 years in Southern California. Doppelt and Forney, APLC serves clients in Linda Vista, Encinitas, Scripps Ranch, San Diego, and throughout Southern California. For a free consultation with a dedicated and experienced family lawyer, contact Doppelt and Forney, APLC through the law firm’s website or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).

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