In California, there is a strong culture of giving back. But family law relates closely to a family’s financial situation, and charitable donations can create significant complications, such as:

Changing the asset conversation

Because California is a community property state, any assets acquired during the marriage are divided equally in the event of a divorce. However, donations take assets out of the marital estate, and it’s not just money. It can be other assets, such as:

  • Real estate: Donations of land to a conservancy.
  • Personal possessions: Donations of art to a museum.
  • Equipment: Donating used manufacturing equipment to an art school.
  • Vehicles: Donations of cars or trucks to a library for outreach purposes.

Each type of donation decreases or changes the marital estate’s value. Donations made in good faith aren’t a problem here. However, many people going through divorce use charitable activities as a way to undermine a fair distribution of assets. If one spouse can prove a donation was made as a method of hiding assets in anticipation of divorce, the court may act accordingly.

Regular donations impact support

When it comes to spousal support and child support, if one spouse makes substantial or consistent donations, the court may factor this behavior into the support calculations. In such cases, it is crucial to have clear documentation, including evidence of mutual consent to the charitable activities.

Timing matters

Contributions made after the date of separation are typically considered separate property as long as they are made with separate funds. Therefore, post-separation philanthropy may not directly affect the division of assets but could still play a role in spousal support considerations.

While charitable giving is an admirable and often integral part of life for wealthy Californians, it is not without its implications in the realm of family law. People should approach philanthropy thoughtfully, with an eye on how it fits into their broader financial picture.