Moore Marsden Law, Calculation and Examples

Moore Marsden Law, Calculation and Examples - Farzad & Mazarei

Learn about Moore Marsden
Law, Calculation and Examples

The words Moore Marsden don’t have much meaning to the average person. Moore Marsden could be a person’s unusual name or a couple of random words put together. But to Orange County family lawyers, the words are almost as familiar as community and separate property.

Moore Marsden is the name of two separate cases decided by our Supreme Court (Marriage of Moore in 1980) and subsequently by our appellate court (Marriage of Marsden in 1982) that deal with the issue of whether the community should receive any money as a result of mortgage payments made during the marriage on a home that was owned by one spouse prior to the marriage or is otherwise that spouse’s separate property.

To understand the Moore Marsden formula and analysis better, let’s look at the Marriage of Marsden case.

The husband in that case purchased a home prior to marriage for $38,300. He made a down payment on the home in the amount of $8300 and obtained a loan for the remaining balance of $30,000. By the time to husband got married, he had reduced the principal amount due on the mortgage by $7000. Once the husband and wife became married, additional mortgage payments were made on the house and the principal amount of the loan was reduced by an additional $9200. After the husband and wife separated the husband continued to make the mortgage payments and reduced the principal by an additional $655.

The question that was asked and what ultimately became the Moore Marsden analysis and formula was whether the community was entitled to any portion of the house as a result of the mortgage payments made during the marriage.

Before we address the principal pay-down issue, it is important that you understand the mortgage payments in that case were made with community property funds. Had the mortgage payments and the principal reduction been made with the husband’s separate property funds, the community would likely not have obtained any interest in the home through the Moore Marsden formula. Furthermore, if the principal had not been reduced and the mortgage payments made during the marriage were interest-only, regardless of whether the community or the husband’s separate property paid for it, there likely would not have been any interest to the community for the mortgage payments unless there was some other theory of reimbursement that could be made, such as, as one example, improvements to the home.

To conduct the Moore Marsden analysis, the appellate court needed two additional bits of information, which it had. First, the court needed to know what the market value of the home was at the time of marriage and, second, it needed to know what the value of the home was at the time the analysis was being done (which in a family law case that is contested is the time of trial). In the Marsden case, the fair market value of the house at the time of the marriage was $65,000. At the time of trial, the fair market value of the house was $182,500.

Let’s do some Moore Marsden calculations

Remember that $38,300 was the total purchase price of the home. Since $9200 of principal was paid down through community funds, that means a little over 24% was contributed by the community (in a principal pay down) toward the initial and total price of the home. That is simple division. That also means a little under 76% was the remaining separate property interest. That includes the down payment plus the $30,000 loan proceeds, minus $9200 that was paid by the community.

Now comes the fun part. Using the numbers we have, we can calculate that prior to the marriage, there was a separate property appreciation of $26,700. During the marriage there was a $117,500.00 appreciation. Do you remember what we wrote was the number of the total principal reduction during the marriage? $9200. How about the percentage that principal reduction bore to the purchase price of $38,300? A little over 24%. Thus, if you take 24% of $117,500 (the appreciation during the marriage) and add to that the principal reduction of $9200, you get the total amount to which the community is entitled in the approximate amount of $37,423. For the purposes of this illustration, we have excluded cents and fractional percentages.

You may ask, “is that what the wife gets?” The answer is no. That is what the community receives and the community includes the husband and wife. Therefore, the wife receives $18,711 (1/2 of the community portion) and the husband receives the remaining equity in the home as well as the balance due on the loan.

Over the years, some people have called this result unfair. Regardless of opinions on it, it is the law and the logic is fairly clear. The increase in the equity of the home during the marriage is simply a condition of the market. Homes go up and down in value during the marriage and that is not controlled by anything the community does or does not do. Therefore, the family courts believe it would be unfair to someone who owns property prior to the marriage to have to share 50% of the equity increase during the marriage, just because the home increased in value and without taking into consideration what, if anything, the community contributed to that increase.

Furthermore, only a principal reduction of a mortgage creates equity in the property by reducing its debt. Payments on an interest-only loan do no such thing and therefore do not provide any value toward the equity.

The Moore Marsden decisions, analysis and formula can be confusing. Our family attorneys can help you determine whether or not there is a Moore Marsden interest in the residence and how much so you don’t overpay if you owned the property prior to the marriage or get underpaid if principal was paid during the marriage. In addition, our family lawyers can look at other facts you provide us related to the residence to see if there are potentially other separate or community property claims. Contact us today for a free divorce consultation.


  1. Richard says

    One simple question, just to be 100% certain of the answer: Is there ANY WAY a home purchased AFTER the date of marriage can fall under Moore-Marsden?

    It is my understanding from everything I have read that the property must be purchased before the date of marriage for Moore-Marsden to apply.

    Thanks for your rapid response! It could make 1000s of dollars difference for my marriage settlement agreement!

    • says

      That is not a yes or no question. It depends on the facts. If you already have an attorney, I suggest you ask your lawyer to answer this for you since he or she probably knows your specific facts.

  2. Tim Hughes says

    One quick question, in the same case scenario as the Moore Marsden above, what would an equity loan taken out during the marriage effects the result? Thanks!

    • B. Robert Farzad says

      Very good question. It just complicates the formula depending on a lot of factors including whether equity was taken out, the changes to interest and principal, etc. Not really a question we can answer in a comment because the question would require us to look at the specific case.

  3. angelique says

    home purchased AFTER the date of marriage can fall under Moore-Marsden, if one spouse signed an interspousal deed disclaiming any interest in the properties?

    And what if the loans (mortgage) were paid down with rents from other properties, not with CP monies?

    • B. Robert Farzad says

      We don’t give legal advice in the comment section of an article. These issues are complex and requires both an in person meeting and review of documents. If your case is in OC or LA, please contact us at the office to schedule a case strategy meeting. We charge a reasonable hourly rate for such meetings.

  4. Michael says

    What happens in the case of interest-only mortgage with depreciation on the value of the (separate) property, yet community money was used to pay the mortgage? In other words, it was a total loss. Does Moore Marsden still apply? Is the community entitled to reimbursement for anything?

  5. john says

    A home in kern county california purchased while married but then refinanced and at that time a grant deed is given to one spouse stating” It is the express intent of the Grantor , being the spouse of the Grantee,to convey all right, title and interest of the Grantor, community or otherwise, in and to the herein described property to the Grantee as his/her sole and separate property.

    “This conveyance establishes sole and separate property of a spouse, R&T 11911.”
    Does this fall under Moore/Marsden

      • john says

        All of the examples of Moore/marsden seem to involve a real property owned by one spouse prior to marriage, what about community property converted to separate property during marriage?

        • B. Robert Farzad says

          Whether or not a property that becomes separate property during the marriage can trigger a Moore Marsden claim is not something that can just be answered yes or no in a comment to an article. The entire set of facts needs to be analyzed. If you need that done and wish to retain counsel to do so and your case is in Orange County or L.A., you may contact us.

  6. Elizabeth says

    Does the Moore Marsden rule apply if the home was paid in full prior to a marriage? and does it apply to any other assets, other than real estate properties

    • B. Robert Farzad says

      Elizabeth, we don’t give legal advice here, in a comment to an article. That requires a strategy session with one of our lawyers at our law office.

  7. Jodi says

    I am curious, is this calculation still valid if the home had been refinanced and paid off during the course of the marriage? For example the home was bought prior to the marraige in 1979. The parties married in 1984. Since that time the house has been refinanced and subsequently had the loan paid off with community funds.

    • B. Robert Farzad says

      Hi Jodi, thanks for commenting. Not sure what you mean by “still valid.” Refinancing commonly occurs and that, by itself, does not eliminate a Moore Marsden calculation. Of course, it may affect it just like a payoff affects it since principal pay down is important. I assume you are referring to your own case and you won’t get the answer regarding your situation here. You should hire an experienced family law attorney in California who knows Moore Marsden to determine how it does or does not apply to your CA case.

  8. Tom says

    What happens if the wife is not on the title when the husband purchased the home a couple months before the marriage (10 years ago). Then 5 years later, she is added to the title. Isn’t she now entitled to 50% of the property regardless of his initial down payment before the marriage? Moore Marsden no longer applies, correct?

    • B. Robert Farzad says

      Hi Tom. Thank you for commenting. We can’t give legal advice here. That comes from a private strategy session with one of our lawyers.

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