Absent an in-kind division or sale and division of proceeds, valuation of each item in the community estate is an essential prerequisite to the court’s responsibility to effect a net equal division. Valuation is ultimately a question of fact, to be resolved in the exercise of the trial court’s broad discretion based on the range of evidence presented. The trial court’s determination will be upheld on appeal so long as supported by substantial evidence in the record.
Obligation To Disclose Value: Each spouse’s fiduciary obligations in the management and control of the community estate include the duty (a) to fully disclose to the other spouse “all material facts and information regarding the existence, characterization and valuation of all assets in which the community has or may have an interest and debts for which the community is or may be liable”; and (b) upon request, to “provide equal access to all information, records, and books that pertain to the value and character of those assets and debts.”
The Parties May Agree On Value: The parties are free to enter into an agreement concerning the value of community property and they are encouraged to do so by the court.
Fair Market Value: Unless the parties stipulate or agree to accept some other measure of value (e.g., cost or book value), an equal division of the community estate must be predicated on fair market value. For purposes of effecting an equal property division upon marriage dissolution or legal separation, “fair market value” of a marketable asset is the highest price on the valuation date that would be agreed to by (i) a seller, who is willing to sell but under no obligation “or urgent necessity to do so,” and (ii) a buyer, who is ready, willing and able to buy but under “no particular necessity for so doing.”
Date Of Valuation: With few exceptions, community assets and liabilities subject to the court’s disposition ordinarily must be valued “as near as practicable to the time of trial.”
Proof Of Value: Competent valuation evidence may be proffered by any of the following methods:
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