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Equitable Distribution In Divorce Proceedings

When couples decide to divorce, one of the primary concerns is the division of their marital assets and debts. According to a family lawyer, this process is governed by laws that may vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another, but many states follow a principle known as equitable distribution. A lawyer can guide you through the complexities of this legal process, ensuring that you receive a fair and just division of your marital estate.

What Is Equitable Distribution?

Equitable distribution is a legal principle used to divide property and debts between spouses during a divorce. Unlike community property states where assets are typically split 50/50, states that follow equitable distribution seek to divide assets in a manner that is fair but not necessarily equal. This means that the division is based on what is considered just, given the circumstances of the marriage.

Factors Considered In Equitable Distribution

The courts consider several factors when determining how to distribute assets equitably. According to Garrett, Walker, Aycoth & Olson, Attorneys at Law these factors can include:

  • Duration of the marriage: Longer marriages may lead to a more equitable split of assets that were accumulated over time.
  • Age and health of both spouses: This can affect earning potential and needs post-divorce.
  • Income and earning potential: The disparity in earnings and the potential for future earnings can influence asset division.
  • Contributions to the marriage: This includes both financial contributions and non-financial contributions, such as homemaking and child-rearing.
  • The standard of living during the marriage: Courts often attempt to allow both parties to maintain a similar standard of living to what they experienced during the marriage.
  • The existence of prenuptial agreements: Legally binding agreements made before the marriage can dictate the terms of asset division.

Types Of Assets Subject To Equitable Distribution

Virtually all assets acquired during the marriage are subject to equitable distribution. These can include:

  • Real estate: Marital home and other property investments.
  • Personal property: Cars, furniture, art, and other tangible items.
  • Financial assets: Bank accounts, stocks, retirement accounts, and pensions.
  • Business interests: Ownership interests in businesses acquired or expanded during the marriage.

Debts are also divided according to the principle of equitable distribution, including mortgages, loans, credit card debts, and other financial obligations accrued during the marriage.

Legal Process Of Equitable Distribution

The process of equitable distribution usually begins with each spouse identifying and valuing all marital assets and debts. This can require extensive documentation and sometimes the assistance of financial experts, especially when the assets are complex or involve business valuations.

Negotiations or mediation sessions often follow, where both parties, with the aid of their attorneys, attempt to reach an agreement on the distribution of assets. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will go to court, and a judge will make the final decision based on the equitable distribution factors.

How A Divorce Attorney Can Help

Navigating the waters of equitable distribution requires a keen understanding of the law and a strategic approach to ensure that your rights and interests are protected. An experienced divorce attorney can provide crucial assistance by:

  • Evaluating assets: Ensuring all assets are properly disclosed and valued.
  • Negotiating settlements: Using skilled negotiation tactics to reach favorable settlements.
  • Litigating your case: Representing your interests vigorously in court if a fair agreement cannot be reached through negotiation.

Divorce is a challenging process, and the division of assets significantly impacts both parties’ futures. If you are considering a divorce, it is vital to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who can guide you through the process of equitable distribution.