Understanding Equitable Distribution
This is somewhat different than Community Property, where everything is divided equally, which is what some states mandate. Understanding equitable distribution and the factors that go into the decision-making, is essential to ensuring that you understand what is going to happen.
How Does Equitable Distribution Work?
Marital assets are defined as the assets that the couple accumulates from the date of the marriage to just before the filing of papers for divorce. Normally these assets are divided equally, but there are times when the court will award a more unequal percentage when there are special situations. The court will take into account many things when deciding how to distribute the marital assets. Some of the things that will be considered are:
- How long you were married
- Income or property brought into the marriage
- Standard of living while married
- Any agreement made before the marriage concerning finances
- Economic situation of the spouses at the time of the divorce
- Income and earning potential of the spouses
- Contribution of spouse(s) to education, training, etc. of the other spouse
- Present value of marital property
- Marital debts and liabilities
- Expenses for minor children, including the marriage home, furniture, etc.
- Whether the court has award alimony
- Any other factors the court finds essential
Each spouse gets to keep any assets or property that they had before the marriage, but any money earned via interest, dividends, profits from sale, etc. will be included in the equitable distribution decision making.
What If They Hide Assets or Undervalue Assets?
While you hope that you know about everything that is owned by your spouse, it is possible that they have tucked away money or changed ownership of a business or property to try to keep it from being part of the proceedings. This, and the undervaluing of assets are quite common, which is why your attorney will investigate your spouse’s assets as thoroughly as possible. Keeping your own financial records through the marriage is important to help prevent this from occurring.Divorce can be confusing. When you understand more about what is going to happen, including how equitable distribution works and the factors that go into the Court’s decision, you will stand a much better chance of getting an outcome that you want and need.