Couples who have decided to divorce are faced with many difficult decisions. In addition to the custody of the children, one of the most important decisions will be deciding how to handle the division of major assets, including real estate.
Marital or separate?
In order to make a legal determination of how property is divided, divorce courts want to know whether the property in question is actually marital property or if it should be considered separate from the marriage. Marital property, for the purpose of property division, is generally considered to be anything that the couple purchased or acquired together. A home purchased together with both spouses on the deed is a common example of marital property. Others include joint bank or retirement accounts, vehicles, and furnishings or appliances purchased during the marriage.
Property that was purchased or owned by just one spouse before the marriage is considered separate property and typically excluded from division during a divorce. Examples of separate property include bank accounts, stocks, money, vehicles, and real estate that was solely owned by one spouse prior to the marriage. Additionally, separate property can also include inherited property or valuables left solely to one of the divorcing spouses and personal gifts.
Some states have equitable distribution laws that dictate how a divorcing couple's assets will be divided. Equitable, when used in this regard, does not always mean that property and assets will be divided equally. Instead, equitable property states typically divide assets proportionately, based on the amount each spouse contributed toward acquiring the asset in question.
One of the most effective ways in which a divorcing couple can achieve a peaceful asset distribution settlement is to work together before the divorce is finalized to decide property ownership. Most divorce court judges will take into consideration a voluntary plan for asset distribution as long as it is fair and mutually agreeable. However, judges who notice unequal distribution in a voluntary plan may make changes in an attempt to equalize the distribution.
Inability to agree?
When divorcing couples are unable to work together to decide how their assets are divided, the final decision may rest with the court. In order to increase the chances of receiving a fair distribution of assets, seeking the guidance and assistance of an experienced family law attorney is best. If the divorce is a contentious one and there is an inability to agree, each spouse should consider representation by their own attorney.