who-getsDividing marital assets can be one of the more difficult aspects of a divorce. If there’s not much in the way of property, it can be a fairly simple prospect, but for couples that have been married for a number of years, and/or couples who have significant amounts of property, it can be a daunting task indeed. So daunting, in fact, that some couples just can’t come to an agreement. In those cases, the court gets involved and makes the determination for them.

The first challenge when it comes to dividing property is to determining which assets are considered common marital property, and which ones are considered each individual’s separate property. In general, assets you owned prior to getting married are considered yours separately, and any property acquired while you were married is considered to be jointly owned.

Here, the date of separation can be a major factor. For instance, if the two of you separate, your-soon to-be ex-spouse moves out, and three months later, he or she wins the lottery, that’s usually going to be considered separate property. Of course, situations like that don’t arise often, but it happens often enough to make the date of separation an important consideration.

The other important thing to remember is that although you may agree with your spouse to divide debts a certain way, the agreement is not binding on the creditors who may continue to try to collect the debt from either party. In general, it’s best to try and pay off all marital debts when the divorce is finalized, and in this way, avoid any complications or unpleasantness that may arise later if the person to whom the martial debt was assigned simply opts to stop paying it.

In summary, there are three basic steps to dividing marital assets:
• Determining if the asset is separate or marital property
• Agreeing on a dollar value for each piece of marital property
• Deciding who gets each item of marital property