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As between husband and wife, a community estate and a joint tenancy estate cannot exist at the same time in the same property. Use of community funds to purchase the property and the taking of title thereto in the name of the spouses as joint tenants is tantamount to a binding agreement between them that the same shall not thereafter be held as community property but instead as a joint tenancy with all the characteristics of such an estate. The statutory presumption that property acquired after marriage except by gift, bequest, devise, or descent is community property, Cal. Civ. Code, §§ 162-164, is successfully rebutted by evidence that the property was taken in joint tenancy. The fact that a deed was taken in joint tenancy establishes a prima facie case that the property is in fact held in joint tenancy. There is actually a presumption that the property is as described in the deed and the burden is on the party who seeks to rebut the presumption. The form of the deed cannot be lightly disregarded. Even with evidence of contrary intent, the deed alone creates a conflict of fact. The form of the conveyance is itself some evidence of the intent to change it from community property, and creates a rebuttable presumption to that effect.
Respondent wife initiated a divorce action against the appellee husband. In her complaint, respondent wife alleged that certain real property known as 14041 Roblar Road, Sherman Oaks, California, was community property. Her specific averment in that regard was that the title to said property stood of record in the names of respondent and appellee as joint tenants for the purpose of convenience only and for no other reason, and said property was intended between the parties to be at all times as their bona fide community property. The trial court granted a divorce to the respondent wife and awarded the property to her on the ground of extreme and habitual cruelty. The appellee husband sought review and contended that the property should have been divided evenly.
Did the trial court properly determine that the subject property was in fact community property, and therefore, subject to disposition in the divorce proceedings?
The court determined that a community estate and a joint tenancy could not have existed at the same time in the same property. The court found that the statutory presumption that property acquired after marriage was community property, pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code §§ 162-164, was successfully rebutted by evidence that such property was taken in joint tenancy. The court found that the parties had not intended to create separate interests in the property. The court held that the trial court erred in attempting to dispose of the property held in joint tenancy because, since such property was not community property, the trial court was without the power to make disposition of such property.