The “Separate Estate” Contingencies


Paul Horton


Faculty editor: Paul Horton
Publication: Contemporary Legal Issues
Volume: 22
Start Page: 423
Month: December
Year: 2015
Type: Article


How many times a year does a California divorce court encounter a scenario like this: George and Alice, married for 30-plus years, are now divorced or close to it. They have come to the end of their marriage in the upper middle class. They are near or at retirement age. Their nest—at the time of divorce, a large single-family in a nice neighborhood, purchased when they were young parents—has been empty for a while now. Alice hasn’t worked in several years; her take on George’s Social Security benefits is greater than what she could get if she took her own. Now divided, George’s retirement account, mostly community property, will provide Alice with a half-million-dollar fund, double that once the house gets sold. According to their marital settlement agreement and the values in their community estate, George and Alice are walking away from their marriage with a million, maybe a million and a half dollars apiece, mostly liquid and free and clear of any significant debts. To cut the knot, all that’s left is resolution of the dispute they are having over alimony. That dispute is going to have to be resolved by the court.