Marriages end, and oftentimes they don’t end on the best of terms. When a couple decides to call it quits and move forward as singles, there are many things that need to be worked out. It is likely they shared bank accounts, property ownership and perhaps even children. Divorce is the only legal way to sever the marital bond. To get a court to sign off on a divorce, a couple needs to be able to divide everything they own. If they can’t agree, the court will have to decide, and state law will dictate how that happens. Discover the different ways a court may divide property in a divorce.
Community Property Division
Some states want couples to categorize the kind of property they own. Anything of monetary value owned by either spouse before the marriage is considered premarital or separate property. It remains with the person who always owned it. Anything that the couple owns jointly, including bank accounts and real estate, is considered community property. In states with community property laws on the books, everything owned by the couple jointly is divided equally between them.
In some states, courts divide marital property in an equitable fashion. This means they do not just cut everything down the middle but rather look at various factors before determining how much of the marital property each gets. Some of the most common things the court considers include:
- How much separate property each spouse owns
- Why the marriage is ending
- Who was the primary caregiver for the children
- How each contributed emotionally to the relationship
Equitable division may help some spouses get more than half of the marital property. This can happen in situations where one spouse left a career to raise children and emotionally support the other. In these circumstances, a judge may award more to the one who provided the care.
Property division laws apply if a couple does not already have an agreement in place. In some cases, a couple may have a prenuptial agreement that dictates how they will divide anything marital property. The agreement, as long as it is legally binding, will stand in divorce court.
Getting a divorce is rarely easy to get through without strife. Even with a premarital agreement and an understanding of the local laws, a couple may wind up squabbling over money and possessions. A family lawyer can be a significant benefit in these situations.