Getting a Grip On What Equitable Distribution Means in a Divorce

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Unfortunately, divorce is something many Americans experience today. Whether their parents divorced or they’re facing their own divorce, it’s become a common shared experience. Indeed, 1.5 million children experience parents divorcing every year. While around 95% of all divorces cases end up getting settled outside of court, there are always that 5% that end up going to court because of child custody, arguments over the distribution of marital property, and other legal issues. Even some cases that get settled outside of court may have steps that involve being in court. It’s in your best interests to think about choosing a divorce lawyer if the distribution of marital property is disputed or your partner has lawyered up. They can help you defend your property and rights in court and mediate between parties.
Can’t We All Just Behave Like Adults?
It’s surprising and frustrating when a partner you’ve been with for years decides to behave like a child about the divorce. A long term partnership that ends in divorce doesn’t always mean that things will be any smoother — it could actually be more difficult, since you’ve acquired more possessions together and probably bank accounts, mortgages, and other financial endeavors are listed in both of your names. For couples who have been married for 10 years, the chance of divorce is about 33% and around 80% of divorce cases are ones where one person wants the divorce and the other does not. That can make for some tough agreements about the distribution of marital property and child custody (if applicable). The person not seeking the divorce may feel entitled to more, since the person seeking the divorce could avoid all the hassle and financial headaches by staying with them.
Although typical divorce costs will cost anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 that number has the potential to really skyrocket if one party is particularly contentious or litigious, which is another good reason to retain a divorce lawyer who can advocate on your behalf.
What Defines Marital Property?
Marital property is essentially things you have accrued together, over the course of your marriage. It does exclude any gifts, inheritances, or bequests — so your family lake house, for example, wouldn’t even be part of the dispute or available for your partner to try and grab. However, if your spouse bought you a car or another large gift, that is considered part of your marital property. Remember that this can include assets, such as IRAs and land, in addition to actual possessions. Some states do have different definitions about particulars, especially what they consider “community property” in a marriage. You’ll want your attorney to bring you up to speed on those laws. A prenup will also lay out specific terms, should a divorce occur.
What Are Some Ways to Work Out Who Gets What?
Ultimately, if you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement, the courts will decide for you. Don’t be fooled when they refer to the distribution of marital property as “equitable distribution.” This doesn’t mean that things will get divided half and half. They’ll divide things in a manner that they consider fair, taking into consideration each person’s age, any prenuptial agreements, alimony obligations, and what the financial future of each person looks like. (For example if a mother who works a mediocre job has sole custody, she may get more from the courts, because her financial future looks more unstable.)
The courts will also take under consideration what each person earns at his or her job, what assets they have separately, and how much he or she contributed to the overall marital property in the first place. The courts also do not award more based on a morality system — that is, if your spouse cheated on you, abused you, or suffered from substance abuse, you will not be awarded more because of that.
If you think you can strike a better deal with your spouse than the courts can, this is when cases tend to get settled outside of court. Your lawyers can help negotiate the proceedings and mediate any disputes that come up.

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