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Divorcing in California with property in another state

by | Jul 19, 2021 | Asset Division

If you are thinking about divorce and own real estate outside of California, you may wonder how the court will deal with that property. These situations are particularly complicated because California courts do not have jurisdiction over real property (land) in another state. They only have control over the divorce proceedings happening in California. So how does this work?

Community property

You may already know that California is a community property state, which means that the court views all assets and debts acquired during the marriage as belonging to both spouses equally. California law states that the courts should divide the assets and debts equally. Property owned before marriage, as well as gifts and inheritances, remain separate property.

Quasi-community property

So what happens if you bought a piece of property after you were married, but while living in another state? As noted above, if you had purchased California property while living in California, that would be community property. When the purchase is made outside of California, however, it is considered quasi-community property. The court will treat it as community property for purposes of your divorce decree and may tell you to transfer the property to one spouse or take some other action.

Jurisdiction problems

Because a California family law judge does not have jurisdiction over the out-of-state property, the judge must attempt to keep the interest in that property the same, if it is already titled to one spouse. If that does not work, the judge will likely do one of the following under the California Family Code:

  • Command the parties to transfer the property via deed or some other method.
  • Award the money value of the spouse’s share to that spouse.

Although a California judge cannot affect the land in the other state, it does have jurisdiction over the people in the divorce proceeding and can require them to take certain actions. If the parties fail to act, the court can hold them in contempt.

A complicated issue

California couples owning property in another state is not unusual, but it can be legally complex. Ensure you understand the nature of your property before you start your divorce proceedings.

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