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What happens when spouses disagree about a home value?

On Behalf of | May 11, 2023 | Asset Division

The way that a married couple divides their assets during divorce is often the biggest catalyst for conflict related to the process. Each spouse has their own perspective on the relationship, the family’s property and the divorce, and they may feel very strongly about what seems fair to them. The more valuable certain assets are, the more likely people are to fight over them.

For many families, a marital home is among the most valuable shared resources in their possession. Many people recognize that community property statutes in California necessitate sharing the equity accrued in the home with their spouse (at least, as part of the overall division of the value of a marital estate overall). But, spouses will find themselves disagreeing about how much the home is worth and, therefore, how much equity there is to share.

Valuing a home can be a challenge

Putting a fair and appropriate price on real property is difficult, in part because there are so many factors that may influence what the home is worth. Additionally, the real estate market tends to change rapidly, meaning that what may have been a reasonable estimate half a year ago will now seem inappropriate.

If one spouse wants to keep the home, they will likely have an interest in establishing a value as low as possible to reduce how much they have to share. If someone wants some of the home’s equity when they move out, they want to have the value placed as high as possible to maximize their share. It is often necessary to bring in an appraiser to establish what the home is worth. In especially high-conflict scenarios, each spouse may retain their own professional appraisal. If there is a significant gap in the reports issued by the two appraisers, the spouses may end up compromising and meeting in the middle.

The most valuable marital assets may be worth fighting for

Some people will mistakenly convince themselves that avoiding all disagreements in their divorce is the best strategy instead of trying to assert their rights and maximize what resources they have to rebuild their lives afterward. Those who recognize that accepting an inappropriate value for their marital home will likely influence the fairness of other property division matters as they negotiate or prepare for family court.

Seeking legal guidance and proactively identifying likely sources of conflict during divorce negotiations may help people to plan their strategic approaches to California divorce proceedings.