Whose Property Is It Anyway?


Disagreements regarding who owns a particular piece of property can, and often do, come up in marital dissolution actions. In many cases a married couple will acquire a piece of property, i.e. car, bank account, retirement account etcetera, during their marriage and take the title to the property in both their names and in this case the issue is clear that both parties own the property. However, there are occasions when only one name, for whatever reason, gets placed on the title to the property. This then creates a potential for problems for the non-titled spouse, especially in today¹s divorce proceedings where more and more spouses are doing their own divorce or using non-lawyers and not getting any legal advice. Then frequently, at the time the non-represented parties are dividing up their assets, the titled spouse informs the other that they are not on title to the property and thus do not have any interest or ownership. The non-titled spouse realizing they are not on title may figure that the titled spouse is telling them the truth – after all they are my spouse and they would not cheat me out of what is rightfully mine, right? Well maybe or maybe not. Under California community property law the courts look first to when the property was purchased. If purchased during the marriage then the property is presumed to be community property and both spouses own the property.

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