Dissolution of Marriage
Divorce is not usually something couples believe will ever happen to them. When it does, they are generally not educated on how the process works, or they have many misconceptions about how things will work. Often, people listen to things that happened with their friends, not realizing that every situation is different. There are some things, however, that are outlined in individual state laws. One of these is how the property gets divided. Property during divorce is not just considered a domicile but also includes all assets and bank accounts. Here are the basics of how the division of these items works.
Community Property States
There are 11 states that are considered community property states. In the legal statutes of these states, property, and assets are divided into that which was purchased while the couple is married – community property – and that which each individual owned before the nuptials – separate. Community property is then evenly distributed between the parties at the time of divorce. For instance, if you purchased a home together and sell it, each spouse gets half of the proceeds. If you can prove that you owned the house before your marriage and that it is separate, you keep the whole thing and do not have to split it.
Equitable Distribution States
The remaining states are considered equitable distribution states. During a divorce, all property is divided relatively, which does not mean it is necessarily evenly split. Calculations in this state take into consideration the contribution of each party to the marriage in terms of all elements of marriage and family, not just financial contributions. For example, if one spouse gave up a career to stay home and raise children for 10 years, that spouse didn’t contribute as much financially to the relationship; however, their contribution to the marriage is given great weight. In these states, a judge may require one spouse to sell or convey separate property to make the distribution of marital property more equitable.
Don’t Forget About Debt
Just as property is divided during a divorce, so too is debt. If a couple accumulated debt during the marriage, then it will be distributed along the same lines as assets and property. In community property states, liability is split evenly between the parties. Likewise, in equitable distribution states, debt is divided along the same ratio as the property.
When going through a divorce, remember that many factors come into play. It’s a good idea to get the help of a family law attorney to help guide you along this new and challenging path.