Title Presumption vs. General Presumption

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Under California family law codes, real properties acquired during marriage are generally presumed to be community property.  However, this presumption is triumphed by the “form of title” presumption which holds that the description in a deed as to how title is held is presumed to reflect the actual ownership interests in the property.  In other words, if a real property is purchased during the marriage but is held by one spouse only as his or her separate property, with the knowledge and consent of the other spouse, then the property is deemed to be the separate property of that spouse.  In the case In re Marriage of Brooks (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 176, the Court of Appeals held that the home purchased by a couple during their marriage with community funds was the wife’s separate property because it was placed in wife’s name only with husband’s knowledge and consent. Apparently, at the time that the home was purchased, the couple placed the home under the wife’s name to obtain the necessary financing.  The Brooks court reasoned that “the act of taking title to property in the name of one spouse during marriage with the consent of the other spouse effectively removes that property from the general community property presumption.”

However, the Brooks court explained that when the spouse who is not the record title holder was unaware that title was taken solely in the name of the other spouse, the form of title presumption does not apply.

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