A big question in many California divorce cases is what happens to the family home. Property held by spouses during the course of a marriage is generally split evenly between them in divorce under the state’s community property system. Still, there are a number of ways to handle the issue, including by allowing the divorcing spouses to work together to come up with a mutually agreeable solution. Even when that happens, legal issues can spring up after the agreement is reached. California’s Second District Court of Appeals recently took on some of those questions.
When Husband and Wife divorced in 2010, they agreed to share legal custody of their two children, with primary physical custody of the kids going to Wife. They also agreed to split their assets, including the net equity in the family home in Covina. The court entered a stipulated judgment covering the terms of the agreement. The judgment made clear that Wife would be able to stay in the home until the kids reached the age of 18 or otherwise were no longer living there. It also obligated the spouses to immediately sell the home and split the proceeds if Wife did anything to “transfer, encumber or convey their interest in the said real property” without an agreement with Husband or court approval. In the event that happened, the judgment also gave Wife the opportunity to buy Husband’s interest in the property.
Husband went back to court in 2014, asking a judge to force Wife to sell the property. He said he signed a quitclaim deed over to Wife after she said she wanted to buy him out, but he added that she never sent him the money and had stopped communicating with him altogether. Wife also refused several requests to have the property inspected and appraised to determine its value, according to Husband. Wife countered by alleging that Husband said shortly after he was injured in a car accident that he wanted to sign the property over to her in order to take care of the kids. He later told Wife – according to Wife – that he’d given her the property so that he could qualify financially for Medi-Cal benefits related to the accident. The judge eventually sided with Husband, ordering the spouses to sell the home and split the proceeds.