It is well-documented that there are few temporary stresses that are more (in a word) stressful than the divorce process is. The need to divide a single household into two households while managing all the legal challenges associated with your split, healing your emotional trauma, managing the social consequences of this transition, and generally processing all of this change can be unquestionably overwhelming. Among the challenges that you will be required to navigate during this time is the daunting task of dividing your marital property, assets, debts, and liabilities.
Equal vs. Equitable Distribution
As an experienced divorce lawyer – including those who practice at AttorneyBernie.com – can explain in greater detail, each state employs a specific standard related to the division and distribution of marital property. The general approaches employed by the states fall into two primary categories: equal distribution and equitable distribution.
Equal distribution states require – with very few exceptions – that the overall value of the marital estate be divided via a 50-50 split. The marital estate consists of all the property, assets, debts, and liabilities acquired during the course of a couple’s marriage. In these states, both the positive value of the estate (property and assets) as well as the negative value of the estate (debts and liabilities) must be divided evenly.
By contrast, equitable distribution states require that marital property be divided equitably. In regards to the value of a marital estate, the term “equitable” means “fair.” As a result, couples can choose to divide their property in any way that is objectively and reasonably fair. Similarly, a judge can order that a couple’s assets, property, debts, and liabilities be divided in ways that they deem to be fair. Note that a judge’s perception of fairness and your own perception of this concept may not be the same thing.
Contentious and Non-Contentious Approaches to Property Division
If you want to keep a judge out of your business, you’ll want to aim for a non-contentious approach to property division. A non-contentious approach is one in which a judge is not called upon to resolve fundamental differences between the parties.
You can embrace a non-contentious approach to property division in a few different ways. If you and your spouse agree on all of the terms of your property division agreement (and the agreement meets the legal standards enforced by your state), you can work with an attorney to finalize these terms and submit them to the court.
If you and you spouse agree on most of the terms of your agreement or you believe that you can resolve any differences that might “come up” as you approach the process from scratch, you can work with an attorney in a lawyer-led negotiation capacity or in a mediation setting. This approach will allow you to benefit from more support and legal guidance than you’d receive if you simply drafted a proposal that you merely needed an attorney to finalize and submit to the court on your behalf.