Watts charges, also known as Watts credits, is often used in California divorce proceedings. The term was derived from Marriage of the Watts, a 1985 case. What are Watts Charges/Credits? A Watts credit is basically a charge that one spouse can make against another for half of a community’s asset in use, post-separation. The Watts charge is basically calculated based on the value attributed to the actual use of the property. For example, if the community asset is a home that one of the spouses is living in, exclusively, then the other spouse can charge the spouse living in the house for one half of the value ascertained for the house. The value in this case would be the use value or the fair rental value of the house in question. Therefore, the Watts Charge will be one half of this fair rental value, and that is the sum that is going to be charged by the spouse.
Exceptions to Watts Charges There are however some exceptions to the Watts Charge. The Watts Charge cannot be enforced if:
- The fair rental value of the community asset was already taken into consideration while determining spousal support.
- The community asset was given as a gift to the spouse
- The spouses had earlier signed an agreement that negates the Watts Charge
How to prove Watts Charges In order to prove Watts Charge, the spouses would require an admissible evidence of the value of the asset in use. For example, in the earlier used case of the house/residence, the spouse proving the Watts Charge will need to testify to the fair rental value, monthly, of the residence. Although the spouse can testify himself/ herself, it would be better to have an expert witness testify. This is so as the spouse may not have the subject matter expertise to share their opinion on this particular subject. The kind of expert required to testify, mainly depends on the kind of community asset in question. For example, a residence valuation will require a different expert from that of business equipment or of artifacts. Watts credits is a complex issue and you should only apply for them when you are sure you qualify to do so. It is recommendable to seek legal counsel with a California divorce advocate and decide on the matter after a private consultation.