Property division is one of the most challenging aspects of divorce. According to Kiplinger, this process involves deciding what is marital property and what is separately owned.
While it seems relatively cut and dried, many couples have intermingled finances. This is especially true with longer marriages, which makes it difficult to determine who really owns what. While the details vary from marriage to marriage, this guide explains a few basic principles of asset division.
In general, all property acquired prior to the marriage falls into the separate property category. This includes gifts, settlements, homes, vehicles, savings, inheritances, and other assets. However, complications can arise during the marriage that makes definitions of separate property less clear. For example, if your ex purchased a home prior to knowing you, but you used your own money to help pay off the mortgage for that property, you may have the right to a reimbursement claim for that money you paid.
Marital property is any assets or items acquired during the course of the marriage. Income from employers, cars, vacation homes, retirement funds, and businesses can all get included in divorce decrees. When one spouse claims that they share an asset when it is actually separately owned, it is up to the other spouse to prove when they acquired the item.
Figuring out what is and is not marital property is really just the first step to asset division. From there, the court must decide how to divide assets between you and your ex-spouse. Some courts divide assets equitably, meaning the process is fair and impartial for both parties. Other courts choose to split assets right down the middle, meaning each spouse gets an equal share.