By Pamela Edwards-Swift, CFLS
Have you ever heard the urban legend about the man walking down the street who sees a Porsche sitting in a driveway? As he walks by, a woman in the house where the Porsche is located yells out a window to the man, “do you want to buy the car – I’ll sell it to you for $1.00?” The man of course says to her, “there must be a catch”, so he’s not interested. She convinces him it’s true, her husband you see, loves his Porsche and the wife just found out he has been having an affair. She wants him to suffer, so by selling his precious car for $1.00 she will feel vindicated. The man gladly hands over $1.00 and drives off in his new Porsche. That’s where the story stops. However, in real life, that is not where the story would end.
In real life, th woman who sold her husband’s Porsche for $1.00, thinking she was getting even with him, would learn in the ultimate divorce that she now owed her husband one-half the value of the Porsche! Assuming the vehicle was worth $80,000.00, the wife would owe the husband an equalization payment of $40,000.00. Now that would be a hard pill to swallow.
The same is true for the destruction of the property. Whether it be intentional or not, the spouse who has the possession of the property and doesn’t take care of it, will usually be found liable to the other spouse for one-half the value of the property (it’s one-half because they each own one-half of the property). Quite often the issue is the family residence. One party moves out when the parties separate and the party left behind fails to maintain the residence. For example, the lawn isn’t mowed, the roof leaks and isn’t repaired, the pool isn’t cleaned, etc. Assuming the failure to maintain the property causes the value of the home to decrease, the spouse who is living in the house, could be charged with difference in value.
Now, of course, there are always exceptions to the general rule. Whether or not one party will be charged with waste of the community asset depends upon a number of factors and in the end must be determined so by the court. Make certain you consult with an experienced family law attorney if you have questions in this regard. And, definitely, you may want to think twice before you sell that expensive vehicle for $1.00 just because it makes you feel good at the time!
Pamela Edwards-Swift, Certified Family Law Specialist, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014; Southern California Super Lawyer