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Why is California the most expensive state for divorce?

On Behalf of | Apr 4, 2024 | Divorce |

People generally understand that divorce is an expensive process. However, some people pay far more to end the marriage than others. The level of conflicts involved in the divorce proceedings has a direct impact on the cost of the divorce process, as does the jurisdiction where someone files.

Those living in California logically choose to file where they live most of the time, but they may quickly learn that they live in one of the most expensive places to pursue a divorce. Court costs aren’t unreasonably high in California when compared with other states. Instead, it is a particular concern associated with property division that makes an “average” California divorce so expensive.

California real estate is the most expensive in the nation

There are real estate markets in other states that see prices similar to the overall California real estate market. The Seattle area, for example, has incredibly expensive homes. The same is true of real estate near New York City and other busy metropolitan region. However, when looking at statewide real estate markets, California has the most expensive properties when compared with other parts of the country. Not only are property prices overall higher in California, but many markets in the state have seen much faster cost appreciation than markets in other areas.

Even people who may have bought their home just a few years ago could quickly discover that the fair market value for the property is now far higher, making it difficult for them to afford the property division process. Under California’s community property statutes, spouses typically need to share the home equity accumulated during their marriage.

Particularly if one spouse wants to stay in the marital home, they may have to scramble to come up with adequate capital to compensate their spouse for their share of the home’s equity. One spouse may not be able to afford financing on their own based on their credit or current income.

Someone hoping to retain the marital home after a divorce might need to make numerous other property division concessions, such as giving up their interest in a retirement account or a family business. Homeowners who decide to divorce in California can expect that addressing the marital home in the divorce may prove more costly in their divorce proceedings than it would if they own a similar home in another state.

Those preparing for a California divorce may have an easier time mitigating the financial consequences if they negotiate a specific property division arrangement instead of litigating. Understanding the factors that affect California divorce proceedings, and seeking legal guidance as needed, can be beneficial for those preparing to file.


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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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