Divorce is not an easy experience, emotionally. But it can be even more difficult when you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse need to divide marital property.
Talk to A Marital Property Lawyer
If you have significant property or assets or significant debt, you should consider calling a marital property division lawyer prior to even filing for divorce. If the amount of property, assets, or debt are really significant you might want to son cider hiring a lawyer just for that aspect of your divorce, and another lawyer to handle the actual divorce.
Here’s some basic information to help you understand what happens when you have to divide marital property.
The first thing a lawyer and a court will need to know is “was there a prenuptial agreement made prior to the wedding?” Typically prenuptial agreements outline what will happen to property gained during a marriage, while also outlining each spouse’s separate property prior to the marriage.
What Counts as Property?
Property is anything that can be bought or sold, or anything that has a financial value. This includes: houses, cars, furniture, clothing, bank accounts, businesses, etc. Within that, there are two forms of property when it comes to a marriage: community property and separate property. Community property is anything earned or acquired during the course of the marriage. Separate property belongs to one spouse. States make their own determinations on what counts as separate property. A family law attorney would be able to help you determine what is “separate property” based on your state’s laws.
If you are not able to settle how the marital property will be divided through mediation or collaborative law, a court will decide how this property will be divided. A judge will sign off on the agreement once it has been determined. Until that point, any marital property will belong to both of you, regardless of who is living in it, using it, or has control of it.
Source: California Courts, Property and Debt in a Divorce or Legal Separation, 2014
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