Besides child custody, dividing up assets and debts can cause the biggest issues in a divorce.
Whether it’s a business, cash in the bank, real estate, or even furniture, everything you and your spouse own has to be accounted for and given to one person or the other.
Below are some quick tips on how courts go about doing this.
Some things belong to just one spouse
Not everything that you and your spouse own gets split up between the two of you. There are some items that often belong entirely to one spouse and not the other. With these items, the court has an easy decision to make and may not need to determine a value.
Some assets and debts that could fall into this category, sometimes called “separate property”, are:
- Tangible items purchased before marriage
- Property received through inheritance
- Money earned after the couple separated
- Money earned from other separate property
If something is considered “separate” for one spouse or the other, that spouse owns all of the asset or is responsible for all of the debt.
Other things have to be split up
For the most part, the rule is pretty simple – anything you bought or earned while you were married usually belongs to both you and your spouse. This is legally called “community property.”
Of course, there are a lot of exceptions and not everything falls neatly into the “before” or “after” category in your marriage.
Some of the most complicated things to divide are a home, a business and a retirement plan. These bigger items have special rules that can be argued either way, making them difficult to value. If you’re fighting for ownership of one of these assets, contact our offices to make sure you know what you’re entitled to.
When the marriage ended is important
One key concept in the background of this all is the length of the marriage and when it legally ended. Many people think that their marriage ends when their divorce is finalized, but this is not exactly true. When dividing up property at least, a marriage ends when a couple officially separates.
But not all couples separate with a single, clean breakup. There may be times when people separate for a time, reconcile, and separate again.
One common marker for determining an official separation is when one spouse moves out of their shared home. This isn’t guaranteed to be the date courts use, but many have successfully argued that it’s a clear sign the marriage was over and it often becomes the date courts use.
If you’re in the process of property division and are fighting for the rights to what you own, use the form below to request a free consultation!
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