When considering how to divide the assets and debts of a marriage, the court takes certain factors into account, including but not limited to: (1) the age of the parties; (2) how long the marriage lasted; (3) the parties’ current and future income earning capacities; (4) how each asset or debt was acquired; and (5) any other factors relevant to determine a reasonable division of property.
The division of the marital estate must be just, and it’s important to note that a “just” division may not be an equal division. Courts will consider all the circumstances, including the factors listed above, that would make a division just, which can sometimes result in a disproportionate division of property.
In order to effectuate the division, the court will often prepare a spreadsheet where the equity in each asset and each debt is placed in columns for each spouse. The equity in an asset is typically calculated as its fair market value less any debt secured by the asset. The equity values in each spouse’s column are then totaled up at the end, and if one party is receiving more equity than the other, the court may order one party to pay an equalization payment to the other party.
Although this may sound straightforward, there is plenty of room for disagreement when it comes to determining the fair market value of assets, which assets should be excluded altogether from the marital estate as non-marital, which party should be awarded an asset that both parties want, and whether it would be appropriate for the court to consider a disproportionate division of the marital estate.
Accordingly, it is wise to consult with a divorce lawyer to determine the best approach for dividing the marital property and debts.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.