How Do Judges Divide Property in Divorce?

Divorce Lawyer

The stakes may be particularly high during divorce proceedings. With so many issues that need addressing before legally ending a marriage, quite a few of these can cause emotions and nerves to be on edge.

Even when a couple agrees on most aspects of the separation, there are bound to be one or two that may send the entire compromise into jeopardy. As an attorney, like a divorce lawyer can explain, a particularly contentious element in divorce is how the couple divides assets and debt. Luckily, state laws often prescribe how this is to happen should the couple be unable to compromise.

Understanding what a judge may do should proceedings reach that point may push spouses to work together to keep their destiny in their own hands.

The Timing of the Acquisition

Most state laws refer to assets as property. While this does include physical property, such as homes and vehicles, it also refers to investment and savings accounts. When a couple gathers financial information, it includes everything acquired while married. Even if held in one spouse’s name, many courts will consider property gained during a marriage as fair game for dividing.

Likewise, anything owned by either spouse before the marriage is not divided unless transferred into the other spouse’s name. A court will also not split estate inheritance. These assets will remain in the sole ownership of the spouse who holds them.

Debts Also Divide

Many couples do not own all of their assets outright. In fact, property, vehicles, and even investment accounts may have some measure of debt attached. Along with these types of debts, many married couples use credit cards and amass quite a bit of jointly-held debt. When a judge must decide how to split the assets, they also do the same to all marital debts. The exception is if one spouse is proven to have amassed unknown debt without the other’s knowledge. In this instance, that debt stays with the spouse who created it.

Other Factors the Court Considers

In some instances, and depending on state law, the judge may consider other factors when deciding on property distribution. The most common include:

  • Pre or postnuptial agreements
  • Whether one spouse has more separate property than the other
  • Alimony payments or child support
  • The contribution of each spouse to the health and subsequent demise of the marriage

A divorce lawyer proves helpful during even the planning stages of divorce. These professionals are intimately familiar with state laws regarding how to handle property division during divorce. Consulting one at the beginning may save heartache in the end.