How Is Marital Property Divided?

Marital Property

Married couples who decide to go their separate ways are tasked with dividing their marital property. Generally speaking, marital property is comprised of all assets—physical, intangible, and financial—acquired during the course of a couple’s marriage. Some property acquired during a marriage may be deemed “separate property” if it meets specific legal criteria. Usually, gifts and inheritance directed at one spouse or the other is considered separate property, for example. But, most of the time, any property acquired by either spouse during the course of a legal union is considered to be marital property.

The ways in which this property must be divided vary depending upon the laws of the state in which a couple files their divorce petition. For example, some states are “equitable distribution” states and some are “equal distribution” states. In equal distribution states, the value of a couple’s marital property must be split 50-50. In equitable distribution states, the division of a couple’s overall property value can be different than a 50-50 split, provided that the overall terms of the agreement are fair to both parties.

When Couples Agree on the Terms of Their Property Division Settlement

Not so long ago, divorcing couples were largely required to litigate the terms of their divorce settlement. A traditional “courtroom battle” would pit each spouse against the other in an effort to secure the most favorable property division agreement terms for their side. Nowadays, most couples are able to settle any differences that they might harbor in property division outside of a courtroom setting. Some spouses sit down together, hammer out a rough deal and ask an attorney to finalize the agreed-upon terms. Others benefit from mediation, attorney-led negotiation, or other formal collaborative approaches.

Regardless of how couples get from A to Z, if they agree on the terms of their property division arrangement, they avoid leaving the fate of their property up to a judge’s discernment. Not all couples are able to iron out all of their differences using a collaborative approach, but those who do tend to save time and money on the legal side of their divorce.

When Couples Can’t Agree on the Terms of Their Property Division Settlement

Sometimes, it is worth an individual’s time and effort to fight for a specific asset or approach to property division in court. Pushing back on a spouse’s approach proactively can be worth the risk when the asset(s) or approach in question can mean the difference between justice and injustice, fairness and unfairness, or financial stability and financial instability moving forward.

In these cases, a judge is called upon to rule in favor of one party’s argument or the other’s. If you are unsure of whether you should fight or compromise, a family lawyer in Des Moines, IA from a firm like the Law Group Of Iowa who specializes in family law can provide you with an objective analysis of your legal and financial situation as well as provide guidance for your legal matters.

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