Division of Assets in Divorce

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What is Meant by “Division of Assets in Divorce”?

In a divorce, one of the main legal concerns is the division of assets between the parties.  “Division of assets in a divorce” refers to the way that property and financial assets are categorized and distributed between the parties.  States may have different laws regarding this subject.

For instance, states that recognize community property laws may divide the assets in a somewhat even fashion based on whether the property was acquired during the marriage.  In a non-community property state, the division of assets may be done on a case-by-case basis. 

How are Assets Categorized in a Divorce?

There are two basic categories of property in most divorce cases.  First, courts identify property that belongs to each spouse individually.  This property is not shared, and is often called “separate property”.  Upon the divorce, the party that owns the separate property retains 100% of such property.  Separate property is usually defined as property that was obtained before the marriage, or that was obtained during marriage with the intent that it be separately owned by only one spouse.

In contrast, marital property is often split 50/50 between each party in the divorce.  This is property that is acquired jointly by the parties during the course of the marriage.  Some common forms of marital or community property include: marriage homes, automobiles, retirement benefits, and some types of stocks.

Is This the Same for Legal Separations?

Generally speaking, distribution of property in a legal separation is nearly the same as that in divorce.  Again, this may depend on state laws, but most states will divide assets in a separation in about the same way that they treat divorces. 

Thus, if a state follows community property rules for divorce, they will likely apply similar principles to legal separations.  Again, this is not a hard and fast rule, so you may wish to consult with a lawyer for more specific details on your state’s divorce laws.

Another thing to consider is how property is to be classified if it is obtained while the parties are legally separated.  Such property is classified as separate property, since the couple is not legally united during the time of separation. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With the Division of Assets in a Divorce?

Divorce proceedings can sometimes be quite complicated, especially if the parties have been married for a long time.  You may need to hire a lawyer for help with the filing and processing of a divorce case.  Your attorney can guide you thought the process and represent you during the legal proceedings.  

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Last Modified: 03-15-2013 12:01 PM PDT

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