Divorce property division refers to the manner in which a couple’s property and money are distributed between the two parties during the process of getting a divorce.
Generally speaking, property that is owned separately by one party, will be retained by them at the end of the divorce process. On the other hand, property that was acquired jointly by the couple during their marriage, will normally be considered shared property and will usually be split 50-50 between the two parties.
For instance, inheritances from a will, family heirlooms, and property acquired through a trust, will usually be labeled as separate property. In contrast, the marital home, other jointly-owned property, and any income earned during the marriage, will typically be held to be shared marital property.
Thus, classifying property as either separate property or shared marital property is one of the primary considerations that is at the center of most divorce cases.
These decisions may present serious challenges for those involved in the matter not only because of the disputes that can arise between the parties, but also due to the fact that each state has separate laws governing the definition of what is considered separate versus shared property in a marriage.
Some states follow what is referred to as “community property” laws. In these states, the property and money will be split equally between the spouses. Other states follow some version of an “equitable distribution” scheme. In a jurisdiction that follows equitable distribution laws, the property and money will be divided by a court in a manner that is determined to be “fair” and “equitable.”
When it is up to a court to decide how to distribute the property, the judge will look at certain factors, such as whether or not the couple signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, how long the marriage lasted, and the financial background of each individual spouse.
What If There Is a Dispute Over the Divorce Property Division?
In most cases, when a dispute over the division of divorce property occurs, it usually has to do with the ownership of the property item in question.
For example, it may be the case that one person is claiming full ownership of the property, which in reality, actually rightfully belongs to the other party. Alternatively, a party may be claiming full ownership of an item, when they really may only be entitled to half of the property because it is considered shared marital property according to the law.
In such instances, the court may have to conduct additional analysis in regard to the characterization of the property. The court might request to examine particular documents and other various pieces of evidence that could help determine certain issues, such as who the original owner was, how they acquired the property, and whether or not the parties intended the property to be shared during the marriage.
As another example, if a car was specifically given to only one of the spouses by their relative prior to the marriage, then the car will likely be deemed to be separate property. Documents or records, such as a title deed or other legal documents regarding the transfer, would make this fact even more certain.
In contrast, if the couple received a gift during their marriage that had both of their names written on the title or property, that gift will likely be considered shared marital property, and, as such, will need to somehow be distributed equally.
What Does “Concealment of Assets” Mean?
Hidden assets in a divorce case is another legal issue that can complicate a divorce matter. Concealing assets can happen in situations where one party intentionally hides or misrepresents the existence of some form of property or some amount of money during a divorce lawsuit.
For instance, if one spouse transfers money from one bank account to a separate or hidden bank account for purposes of deception, then this could be considered an act of hiding assets (i.e., “concealment of assets”).
Sometimes, simply failing to declare the existence of property during a divorce lawsuit can also be considered an action that amounts to concealment of assets. This behavior usually must be done intentionally, however, in order for the party to be found liable.
In addition, other legal consequences can result from being held liable for concealment of assets. This includes legal ramifications, such as being issued a contempt order, having to pay a monetary damages award, and in some cases, a party might even face criminal penalties as well.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Dividing Divorce Property?
Dividing property during the divorce process usually requires the assistance of a divorce lawyer. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you with any necessary filings, as well as guide you through the process of a divorce lawsuit.
Additionally, a divorce lawyer will also be able to provide legal counsel regarding the laws in your area, and any rights or protections that you may have under them.
Finally, a lawyer can also help you to obtain a fair distribution of property through either divorce settlement negotiations or during the divorce proceeding.