Under California law, every property that is acquired before, during or after a marriage is labeled as either community property or separate property. Community property is defined as any property that is acquired during marriage (except for gifts or inheritances) and is owned jointly by both spouses. Community property is divided equally upon divorce. Separate property is any asset that is acquired before marriage, after divorce, or by gift, inheritance or separate property funds during marriage. Separate property belongs to the spouse who owns it upon divorce.
How each property is labeled during a marriage is important because it can impact the division of assets in the event of a divorce. California law allows married couples to change the characterization of property from one party’s separate property, to both parties’ community property, or vice versa.
What Is Transmutation?
Transmutation is a change in the characterization of marital property in California. Before 1984, married couples could verbally change the characterization of property. For example, if a husband owned a separate property before marriage, he could “transmute” the characterization of his property simply by stating that he intended to do so. This means a simple “Honey, my home is your home” would be sufficient to change the husband’s separate property home to community property. This would be a valid transmutation.
In 1984, California legislature enacted section 852 of the California Family Code that required all transmutations of real or personal property to be in writing, consented by both spouses, and be signed by the spouse whose interest is adversely affected.
Not All Transmutations Are Created Equal
It is important to note that sometimes a spouse may think that there is a valid transmutation where in fact there is not. As such, it is important to be careful that the transmutation of a property during your marriage is valid. This is why it is in your best interest to hire an experienced Central Valley family law attorney to help you validly transmute property. If a property is not validly transmuted, it can have serious implications upon divorce.
If you or your spouse plans on changing the characterizations of any property, it is best to immediately consult with an attorney who is versed on this topic.
Call an Experienced Central Valley Divorce Attorney
If you are going through a divorce or are planning to file for divorce in the near future, you need to hire an experienced divorce attorney to help protect your legal rights and make sure this already traumatic experience proceeds as smoothly and painlessly as possible.
For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with Central Valley divorce attorney Gurjit Srai, please call us at (209) 323-5558 or (559) 449-1447, or complete our online form.