Divorce lawyers have represented countless clients in pursuit of divorce since the 19th century, and often find that property division can be a tedious, taxing, and drawn-out process. Many divorcees do not end up with everything they had intended to receive upon the settlement, and the bidding can be worsened by friction between the two parties.
The state you reside in is an important factor concerning the outcome of your divorce. There are two types of states when it comes to property division in a divorce: community property and equitable distribution. Community property is simple. It consists of a 50/50 split of all property acquired during the marriage. It does make the process easier, but can also lead to outcomes that are unfair — some spouses who receive half of the property may be undeserving. Ten states currently use the community property system: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin. All other states base the division on equitable distribution, which attempts to dish out property according to what each party deserves.
Which property is considered marital property and which is not may surprise you. For simplicity’s sake, it is easier to point out which property is not marital, which consists of three categories:
- Property owned before the marriage
- Property given as a gift to one spouse
- Property inherited by one spouse
Any property that is not included in any of these three categories can safely be considered marital (although there are exceptions). Stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, IRAs, physical assets, frequent flier miles, and even the increase in the value of sole-proprietorship business ventures owned by a spouse prior to the marriage are considered marital property.
In community property states, the marital property will be divided and split in such a way that the monetary value of all property and debt is approximately 50%. For equitable distribution states, the process is more complicated. There are a few considerations to make that will determine which property you have a right to.
- Income and property brought into the marriage by each spouse
- Length of the marriage
- Contributions of each spouse to the education, training, and earning power of the other spouse.
- The income and earning potential of each spouse.
These are simply a few of the many considerations.
Divorce is hard, and property division is a stressful endeavor. We hope you will find comfort in the fact that, no matter how a jurisdiction chooses to split property, the intention is fairness. For further information, consult with a divorce lawyer in your area.