When you are married, there are a few ways that property can be defined. If you owned property or inherited assets prior to the marriage, this can be considered separate property, so long as it was never mixed with marital property. Once you have legally married your spouse, property and assets obtained from that point forward are usually going to be considered marital property. When a couple gets divorced from one another, their property must be divided according to the state’s equitable distribution laws related to the circumstances of the marriage and divorce.

How is property divided?

Equitable distribution is the process of dividing property according to what is fair, not necessarily what is equal. While spouses may come to their own agreements concerning how their assets will be split, both monetary and nonmonetary contributions to the marriage should be considered.

Property will be divided by:

  • Classifying property as either marital or separate
  • Valuing the marital property according to the fair market value
  • Dividing the property according to the rights and interests of each spouse

The rights of the spouses to the property will be determined by considering things such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s contributions to the family, age of the spouses, what conditions led to the divorce, the tax consequences, and more. Separate property, as long as it has not been co-mingled with or become marital property, will not be divided in the divorce.

When a couple has built a life together, it can be difficult to separate the property to determine who gets what. The court will take some things into consideration-such as one person’s desire to keep the marital home-when dividing the property, but will ultimately rule in the manner it sees fit based on the circumstances of the divorce.