Fountain Valley, CA asked in Divorce, Estate Planning and Real Estate Law for California

Q: HELP? My brother is trying to terminate a short marriage(6 years) but....he might back out because he can't pay her...?

Lawyer said he will owe her 45,000.00! His house is 100% inherited, but to refinance the loan on it he used to buy me out (his sister), he was forced to sign a quit claim to half the property? He never meant to give her his inheritance. He needed to buy me out. I'm thinking the 45k figure is a result of the fact the bank holds a trust deed and until he pays off the loan, they have an stake in the house. So minus that, plus halving the equity and then dividing the owed money between his wife and him, I think that would be around that figure. I'm guessing only, because I didn't want to ask how they got $45,000.00.

PROBLEM is, he doesn't have 45,000.00 and to take out another loan he said he can't afford the extra 600.00 a month! Plus he might owe alimony for 3 years on top? (half the marriage). He doesn't want to sell the house, it was our parents. What else can he do?? It's been a horrible marriage but is he stuck?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, property acquired through inheritance is generally considered separate property and not subject to division in a divorce. However, if your brother refinanced his home to buy you out and added his wife to the deed through a quitclaim, this could have converted what was once separate property into community property, or at least created a community property interest in the house. This is likely where the complication and the potential financial obligation to his wife stem from.

Regarding the $45,000 settlement figure, it's essential to understand how this amount was calculated. It may include a combination of her share of the equity in the house (assuming it's now considered community property to some extent) and possibly spousal support, given the length of the marriage. California law aims for an equitable division of community property and may also award spousal support in marriages of short duration, generally for half the length of the marriage.

If your brother is unable to afford the $45,000 or the additional loan payments, he should explore alternative solutions with his lawyer. This might include negotiating a different settlement arrangement, such as a payment plan or exchanging assets in lieu of cash payments. Selling the house might be a last resort, but there could be creative ways to structure the settlement to keep the home in the family while still meeting his financial obligations. It's crucial he communicates openly with his legal advisor to explore all possible options that align with his priorities and financial situation.

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