Approximately 40% of marriages end in divorce.
While this can occur for a large variety of reasons, the outcome is often one that is fairly complicated. This is especially true when it comes to the distribution of marital property, as it’s not uncommon for there to be a disagreement over who is entitled to receive what.
Fortunately, equitable distribution isn’t as difficult to understand as it may seem. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know.
1. Debt Could Also Be Distributed
Interestingly, a spouse’s debt is one of the possessions that the court could require to be evenly distributed between the two parties. This is especially common if one spouse makes far less money than the other but also has a far higher amount of debt.
Since the division of this debt is meant to be equitable and not entirely equal, this doesn’t mean that you’ll split that 50/50, either.
In the above scenario, the spouse with a higher income and less debt could be responsible for paying off the majority of this amount even though it has nothing to do with them. At the end of the day, this decision is entirely left up to the judge, and they will decide the fairest way possible to allocate this responsibility.
2. Marital Misconduct Is Irrelevant
It’s not uncommon for a spouse to argue against a judge’s decision due to their former partner’s marital misconduct. They may even attempt to use this factor as leverage as soon as the divorce is in progress.
Regardless of what occurred during the marriage or why it inevitably dissolved, equitable distribution is not affected by these factors.
An exception, however, would be is the misconduct that occurred they direct negative effect on the couple’s finances. This could include spending large amounts of money on illicit activity, withholding money from your spouse as a form of financial abuse, etc. It could even involve an unfaithful spouse spending the couple’s money on their romantic interest.
In general, though, you’ll find that the judge will focus primarily on equitably distributing the assets a couple has.
3. This Term Doesn’t Always Mean ‘Equal’
Despite the initial impression many people get from the term ‘equitable,’ this doesn’t mean that marital assets will be distributed objectively evenly. Instead, the court will determine how to distribute assets in a way that is most fair to both parties.
As previously mentioned, it wouldn’t make sense for a spouse with a much higher income to gain access to exactly 50% of marital assets. This becomes increasingly true if that spouse was not awarded custody of any children.
Fortunately, you can avoid experiencing an unfair equitable distribution by coming to an agreement with your former partner over who is entitled to the property. In many cases, these conversations could allow you to resolve major issues on your own without a judge making a decision that could negatively impact you.
So, keep this in mind during your divorce so that you can do your best to reach a conclusion that satisfies both parties.
4. Separate Property Could Sometimes Become a Marital Asset
More often than not, the judge won’t consider separate property while making their decision regarding equitable distribution.
However, it’s not impossible for separate property to become a part of the process under certain circumstances. For example, one of the most common scenarios involves a spouse allocating money to a joint bank account that is meant for both parties to make use of.
If there is a significant amount of money in this account at the time of the divorce, a judge can rule that this account is now a marital asset and require it to be distributed as such. This process could easily become far more complicated if the money that was placed into this account was from a personal loan or an inheritance.
So, keep this factor in mind when coming up with a list of relevant assets that you need to deal with.
5. A Number of Other Factors Could Apply
In most scenarios, a judge has a large pool of factors to draw from to help determine equitable distribution. For instance, a spouse that loses health insurance after a divorce could be awarded a larger portion of marital assets due to this financial obstacle.
Similarly, the same could be said regarding property that was owned by one spouse but contributed to by the other spouse. In this scenario, a spouse that provided a large amount of manual labor for a home that the other spouse owed could be awarded part of this property by a judge.
The income of both spouses, the presence of children, and even the length of the marriage or other factors that a judge takes into consideration before making that decision. If a spouse was relying on their former partner as a full or partial caretaker, this could also impact the equitable distribution of the couple’s assets.
Lastly, the judge may also consider factors unique to a specific divorce to become as relevant as the above scenarios. So, in theory, a judge can rule that anything is able to influence how assets are allocated between the two parties.
Understanding Equitable Distribution Can Seem Difficult
But it doesn’t have to be.
With the above information about equitable distribution in mind, you’ll be well on your way toward ensuring that your property is allocated fairly.
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