Throughout San Diego County many couples purchase homes together prior to marriage without consideration for the potential consequences which could result if the couple later divorces. Likely, these couples will only discover the impact of seemingly innocuous real estate paperwork and escrow forms from a divorce attorney years later. If you are considering purchasing a home with your significant other, it is crucial to first consult with an experienced family law attorney to understand your options.
For the majority of divorcing couples in California, the marital residence is the most significant asset they own. In the beginning stage of the divorce process, both sides will gather information and documents in order to ascertain the character of the residence (community property, separate property, or a mixture of the two), the character of any debt encumbering the residence and whether either spouse has a separate property reimbursement claim. The ultimate determination of how the house will be divided is based on the documentation completed at the time of purchase and all subsequent related documents. In order to protect against unintended consequences, it is important to work closely with your real estate professionals and family law attorney prior to purchasing a home outside of marriage.
A premarital agreement commonly referred to as a “prenup” can provide certainty to unmarried couples purchasing real property. In addition, by taking the time to meet with a divorce attorney, you can get all relevant information needed to make an educated decision. Common misconceptions regarding California community property rights are reflected in the following comments often made by family law litigants:
“Even though we bought our house prior to marriage, we are married now so it should be divided equally.”
“My name alone is on title to the house so it is entirely my separate property.”
“We only put my spouse’s name on title because he/she had better credit, that shouldn’t matter.”
Communication is key when buying a house. You and your significant other should discuss expectations regarding each party’s interest in the house upon marriage and in the event of divorce. By entering into a premarital agreement you can ensure that any agreements reached or understandings between the parties are legally enforceable.
If you would like to learn more about premarital agreements, the California divorce process, child support, spousal support, child custody and visitation or property division, schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney at Cage & Miles, LLP. Our skilled attorneys can provide you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions and protect your rights.