Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution

HOW THE COURT DIVIDES ASSETS AND LIABILITIES

Marital Assets and Marital Liabilities

Non Marital Assets and Liabilities

Pre Marital Assets and Liabilities

Inheritances

 

Unless the husband and wife enter into an agreement that sets out who gets which assets and who gets which liabilities, the Circuit Court will conduct a trial, after which it will determine who gets what and who will pay what.

The current statutes require a court to begin the process of dividing assets and liabilities by setting aside those assets that are defined as “non-marital”, typically those assets which were owned prior to the marriage, inherited during the marriage but not mixed with marital assets, or properties specified in a written agreement between the parties as being non-marital.

The Court will divide marital assets and marital liabilities, starting with the presumption that such assets and liabilities will be distributed equally. The Court may unequally distribute marital assets and liabilities based upon a series of factors. The most common unequal distribution is awarding the marital home to the primary caretaker of the children until the children reach eighteen. Other factors include the contributions of each party to the marriage, the contribution of one party, as well as other equitable factors. The Court may award cash payment from one party to the other for career or educational opportunities, or due to the intentional depletion or destruction of marital assets by one party. The Court may also award a cash payment from one party to the other to balance out assets and liabilities. It is not necessary for a court to divide each and every asset between the parties. Instead, the Court may award some assets to one party, some to the other, and balance the difference through a cash payment. Generally the Court orders that each party keeps the personal property (clothes, furniture, tools, collections) that each have in their possession. If your spouse has “stuff” you want, you should work to prepare a list of what you want back.

If proper pleadings are filed, a trial judge may order particular items of real or personal property to be sold and the proceeds awarded to one or both spouses. If you want to keep the marital home or other real property, now would be a good time to see if you qualify for independent financing.