Spring Cleaning: Dividing Assets in a Springtime Separation

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Couples may be curious about how to divide their assets when getting a divorce in the spring. This process will largely depend on whether the property is considered separate or marital property.

Ideally, separating couples will be able to collaborate to determine how to divide their assets, property, and debts. However, some couples may require the involvement of an attorney or mediator to work through the details of an amicable separation.

There are a few items for couples to consider when dividing assets during a divorce.

Getting a Contested or Uncontested Divorce

When dividing assets in a divorce, one of the key determinants will be whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. Most couples don’t decide explicitly on either type, but may still be able to work together to make the asset division process smoother.

In an uncontested divorce, both individuals will agree on the terms of the divorce and work together to file documents with the court, without the need for a formal trial. This type of divorce is ideal because the costs are lower and it takes less time, seeing as neither party needs to involve lawyers or the court. Individuals in an uncontested divorce can also avoid the added stress of disagreements when it comes to property division. If one or both of the individuals wish to proceed without a lawyer, he or she should retain an attorney to review the settlement agreement before the divorce is finalized, especially if there are minor children, a maintenance or alimony obligation, or there are significant assets or debts.

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Contested divorces, on the other hand, occur when both parties are in disagreement over aspects of the divorce, including property division, along with child and spousal support. In contested divorces, lawyers typically represent each party. These cases frequently go to trial, which is overseen by a judge. Unlike uncontested divorces, contested divorces are often expensive, lengthy, and stressful for involved parties.

Other types of divorces may not fall into either category. For example, couples may opt for mediation, collaboration, or arbitration to avoid the pains of an uncontested divorce while keeping both parties out of direct contact with one another.

The Type of Property Involved

In addition to the type of divorce, the type of property involved according to the state’s definition will dictate its division.

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In some states, the property of married individuals could be classified as community property or separate property. Community property is owned equally by the couple, while separate property belongs to a single spouse. Throughout the divorce process, community property is typically split evenly between both spouses, while separate property remains with the initial owner. This type of division applies in Arizona, Alaska, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, California, Wisconsin, Washington, and Puerto Rico.

In every other state, equitable distribution applies. This means earnings and assets collected during a marriage are distributed fairly between both spouses. Some states also allow judges to order one spouse to use separate property, which facilitates a fair settlement for both parties.

When seeking a divorce, couples can divide property on their own by listing their belongings, agreeing on property values, deciding ownership, and gaining a judge’s approval. Learning what the state’s rules are and determining how well both parties can cooperate during a divorce will help the couple determine how to approach asset division. Working closely with an experienced mediator can help this process go more smoothly.

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