California Court of Appeals Reviews Characterization, Valuation and Division of Wife's Bonuses in Divorce
When it comes to divorce and the division of property, spouses should understand that California is a community property state. This means that an integral part of the marriage dissolution process entails the characterization of property as community, separate or quasi-community. This is a critical stage in the divorce proceedings, as proper characterization of property can impact the family's lifestyle long after the parties have gone their separate ways. A San Diego family law attorney, with extensive experience handling divorce and related matters, can be a tremendous asset when working through property division issues.
Under California Family Code section 760, there is a presumption that any property acquired during the marriage, by either spouse - other than by gift or inheritance - is considered to be community property (unless traceable to separate property sources). In order to determine whether property is community or otherwise, the parties (and/or the courts) must ascertain the time period during which the property was acquired. In a recent unpublished decision, the court of appeals was asked to review a trial court's ruling concerning the characterization, valuation and division of a wife's employment-related bonuses. In this case, there were several bonuses at issue, either conditionally received or earned from her employer before the couple separated.
The spouses argued over whether and to what extent the husband was entitled to the wife's "book of business" and certain bonuses that her employer, Wells Fargo, conditionally agreed to pay her. The trial court awarded the wife's book of business to her, concluding that since she could not sell her client list, it had no value and the husband, therefore, had no interest in it. The lower court also ruled on the status of several other bonuses, holding that a portion of a "transitional" bonus was earned before the separation and constituted community property subject to division. As for the other bonuses, the court ruled that they were the wife's property because they were not paid or due until after the parties separated.