“I have been married to and have lived in the same home with my husband for the last 15 years. Just after becoming engaged we started looking for a spot to build our home. Although we weren’t married at the time the property was being purchased, we both contributed to the down payment. Everything was done in my husbands name only, and his name is the only name that appears on the mortgage. What steps do I need to take to ensure my rights, if any, to this property?”
It would be nice if you two could cooperate to transfer the title into both of your names. It also would be helpful for you to track down any records you may have of separate property contributions to the purchase of the land or building materials. In California, all contribtions made towards the house from earnings during the marriage would be community property, but that would not get you to half ownership under the facts you describe. Should you to ever part ways, and you do not “fix” the title, you will have to deal with the rebuttable presumption concerning ownership that comes with a pre-marriage purchase of property in one person’s name alone. You do have assets at risk.
The lesson others should glean, is that no matter how much in love you are, it does not hurt to put your agreements and understandings in writing.