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What is a Moore Marsden Calculation?

Posted by Michael Geller | Feb 01, 2023 | 0 Comments

If you are going through a divorce in Contra Costa County involving real property, you may hear a reference to the term “Moore/Marsden calculation” and wonder, “what does that actually mean?” Here is the answer: Moore and Marsden are shorthand references to two seminal divorce cases decided by the California Supreme Court and the California Appellate Court in 1980 and 1982 respectively. These cases addressed the issue of how to determine the community property interest in a home.

The two cases established that when the community in a marriage pays down principal, the community may receive a dollar-for-dollar reimbursement as well as a pro tanto (as far as it can go) share of the property's appreciation from the date of marriage to the date of the trial. Thus, we have the Moore Marsden calculation.

The Moore Marsden calculation came into prominence as a way of navigating the complexities associated with California Family Code Section 2640. This code section grants the right to reimbursement for separate property contributions toward community property and for community property contributed to the individual property of one spouse. If your eyes glaze over while reading that code section, do not fret. Many people, including attorneys, have done the same. This is where the Moore Marsden calculation comes into play. It helps simplify the calculation to each party's interest in real property when one spouse bought the property prior to marriage.

How the Moore Marsden Calculation Works

The Moore Marsden calculation generally entails using a specific equation, especially if a mid-marriage refinance or post-separation charge/credit occurred. The equation is as follows:

  • Add together the dollar-for-dollar reimbursement and the pro tanto share.
  • The amount will be deemed the community interest in the property.
  • Multiply this amount by the following:
    • Numerator = Community property payments of principal
    • Denominator = Purchase price of the home

For example, let's say Person X purchased a home for $400,000 in 2018. Party X made a down payment of $50,000 and paid an additional $100,000 before Party X married Party Y in 2019. At this point, the price of the home is $500,000. Once married, both parties paid an additional $100,000 toward the principal. On the date of the trial for the married couple's divorce, the home is valued at $700,000.

The Moore Marsden calculation indicates that the community should receive $100,000 for reimbursement related to the pay down of the principal. In addition, the community should receive $200,000 (the appreciation of the home from marriage to trial) multiplied by the fraction $100,000 (community property payment of principal) over $400,000 (purchase price of home). The community interest would therefore be $150,000 ($100,000+$200,000 x [$100,000/$400,000]), not counting the Separatizer calculation.

Have Questions About Conducting a Moore Marsden Calculation? Contact The Geller Firm Today

If you have questions about conducting a Moore Marsden calculation when assessing the value of your home in a Contra Costa County divorce case, consider contacting The Geller Firm. Our team of experienced and knowledgeable Lafayette divorce lawyers are well versed in the nuances and complexities associated with the Moore Marsden calculation and stand ready to assist our clients.

We are located in the San Francisco Bay Area and are proud to provide legal services in Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga, and Contra Costa County, along with San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and Pleasanton. Our legal team is available for virtual and in-person consultations. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

About the Author

Michael Geller

Michael Geller is an attorney licensed by the State Bar of California.


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