Litigants in family law for California represent at least 70% or more of the caseload in
Family law hearings. Judges routinely become weary of handling these cases, as many
litigants are not able to clearly state or argue their cases. In particular, community asset
cases may detrimentally suffer. We have seen one case north of Sacramento, end up in
a disaster where the wife had a $100,000 down payment (cash) on a house she paid about
$240,000 for.....this was a separate property.
Wife made payments even while married so she started out with a high equity. At time of
divorce her equity was zero and the house had a value of possibly $165k. The judge (who
was a commissioner GAVE THE HOUSE AWAY TO THE HUSBAND and forced the wife
to sign over the title??? Not only is this improper, what should have been done was to
allow the wife to seek (a) time to (b) obtain special financing or (c) to modify the loan or
to (d) borrow or restructure or (e) take possession of house and rent out all the rooms.
In NO CASE should the HUSBAND have been granted the house outright. A challenge
post judgment was made and Judge denied it, claiming that Wife was saying that Judge
was "wrong" (which he was) and Judge claimed he could do this because he could "equalize"
the financial situation as he saw fit. Although judges have discretion on this, they do NOT
have discretion to simply give away a property at that time without offering a potential
solution first. All family law specialists know this, and that would not have happened if
the client had been represented.
A claim for separate property reimbursement which normally would come off the top
of any property that it can be traced to (community usually) is the first step--but the property
usually must have equity. However since real estate equity will obviously vary and change
by the seasons, normally we do not just GIVE IT AWAY to the other party.
If you ever see this situation, make sure either you or whoever has the predicament does NOT
allow any commissioner or Judge to just give away that property to the other person.