married in oct 2012 divorcing in 2019. she has helped with mortgage and monies with home improvements. she is living in home while we divorce. I want to keep house and am wondering what courts will award her.
Section 2640 of the Family Code says that you get your separate investment in the house returned to you without interest or appreciation. If any equity remains after that, it is divided equally between the parties as community property. It can get more complicated if there was a significant time during marriage before you added her on title. If during that time you used community property to pay down the mortgage principal or improve the property the community may be entitled to a percentage interest in the house under a line of cases known as Moore-Marsden in addition to the section 2640 share. If that is your situation, consult with an attorney as the Moore-Marsden share can be difficult to calculate and there are several unresolved issues in the on this issue.
Your wife has an ownership interest in the house. Provide an attorney -- or an expert witness in accounting who has been accepted as an expert in family law cases (I often use Jim Butera, CPA in San Jose) -- with your mortgage statements, loan information, and the current value of the house (eg. Zillow, Redfin) and have them do a Moore Marsden analysis on the property. That will give you an idea of the extent of her ownership interest.
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Much more information is needed to answer this questions. However, generally speaking, all earnings and accumulations during marriage are community property subject to equal division by the court at time of divorce. All earnings and accumulations before marriage and after separation are your separate property. including the house you bought before marriage).. Use of community property money to pay down the principal on a loan secured by deed of trust on separate property entitles the community to an interest in the increased value over time. A different result entirely occurs depending on the reasons you added Wife to the deed. If your intent was to make your separate property home the community property of both of you, then the issue is whether you have transmuted the character of your home from separate to community. California requires written evidence of intent to make that change and you putting her on title could be viewed as satisfying that prerequisite. Again, further information is required to be able to address your specific situation. I hope this general information is helpful. Good luck.
Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, as each situation is fact specific, and it is not possible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and court pleadings filed in the case. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.
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