Property Division

A marriage is not only an emotional union - it is also an economic union. During a marriage, spouses combine their incomes, assets, investments, property and debts. With the exception of a few states, most states employ equitable distribution or community property laws, which involve the categorization of property as "marital" or "separate," with marital property being subject to distribution at the court's discretion. Equitable distribution does not guarantee that spouses will split assets 50/50, but rather that marital property will be divided in a fair and equitable manner.

Property Distribution Factors

Spouses may attempt to reach their own agreement regarding property and assets in the event of a divorce or separation. This may prove a better arrangement, as they can take specific considerations and preferences into account that a family law judge may be simply unaware of. If negotiation or mediation are unsuccessful, however, the court will need to intervene to determine property division. Before distributing marital property, the court will consider a variety of factors. These factors may include:

  • The length of marriage;
  • The income of each spouse;
  • The property purchased during the marriage;
  • The age and health of each spouse;
  • Any written marital agreement between the spouses;
  • The tax consequences associated with the property;
  • The debts and liabilities of each spouse; and
  • The earning capacity of each spouse.

Marital Property
Marital property may be described as the shared assets and debts acquired during the marriage. All marital property is subject to division between spouses in the event of a separation or divorce. Marital property may include houses, motor vehicles, stocks, savings, furniture, private businesses, 401(k) plans and real estate. Marital property may also include debts such as credit card debt, mortgages, car loans, school loans and unpaid bills. Read more about marital property.

Separate Property
Separate property may be described as assets or debts acquired by a spouse prior to the marriage. Separate property also includes inheritances or gifts given by a person outside of the marriage and may include property acquired during a time that spouses are living separate and apart under a separation agreement. Read more about separate property.

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