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Equal or Equitable Distribution in Divorce?

Experienced Attorney

Thoughts of your impending divorce may make your mind spin. There may be a whole lot of uncertainty with the process. The thing you do know is your life will not be the same once the divorce is final.

Many state-specific rules govern how the courts handle elements of a divorce. A huge sticking point for couples is dividing up property. Some states subscribe to an equal split while others divide things equitably. Find out what the subtle differences are in each, so you are prepared for what your state’s policy is.

Marital Property vs. Sole and Separate

Property in a divorce includes cash, investments, assets, real estate and retirement accounts. However, not everything may count towards the marital pot. The first step in figuring out what is eligible is by adding up everything that the couple acquired together during the marriage. This is known as marital property, and it is what gets divided during the divorce. Sole and separate property is anything owned by the individuals before the marriage. It may also apply to property one party obtained while married if the other spouse either signed off on it or if it was part of an inheritance. Separate property does not get split between the parties and remains with the one who owns it.

An Equal Divide 50/50 

It may seem like the fairest thing to do is equally divide marital property down the middle. In some states, the court will order this type of division. The parties must then start negotiating who gets what until they each have an equal amount of the pot. In the case of real estate the is pending sale, the divorce decree may contain a provision about splitting the profits evenly after it is sold.

Equitable Is Not Always Equal 

In states with equitable division, the court takes other factors of the marriage into consideration. For example, each spouse’s contribution to the marriage is evaluated by the judge. A contribution is not only financial but also includes emotional support and care of children. If one spouse left employment to stay home with children, their economic contribution would not be much. However, their position in the marriage is still seen as valuable. Therefore, the judge makes the call on how the marital property is divided to give both spouses a fair share.

Finding out from a divorce lawyer in Arlington, VA which distribution process your state uses can help you be ready to handle a negotiation with your spouse. Understanding the importance of the differences, and what you can do to help your situation can lead to a high chance of success.

Thanks to May Law, LLP for their insight into family law and equitable distribution in divorce.

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