Marital vs. non-marital assets: Who gets what in a divorce?

When a legal issue arises in your family, the best way you can protect yourself and the ones you love is by consulting a family law attorney who understands how to help you.

So many matters come to the forefront once couples pursue divorce. However, since the marriage eroded, so did communication. Now, the estranged spouses are forced to communicate despite the circumstances. They must get down to the nitty gritty of details, and that includes property division.

Sometimes, civility disappears as couples bicker over the little things and, of course, the big things when it comes to dividing property. "That's mine!" is followed by the retort "No! That's mine!" Assets, property and debt get scrutiny in a divorce settlement. And that includes marital property and non-marital property. What is the difference?

Marital property is subject to equitable distribution

Marital property consists of assets that spouses accumulated together during the marriage and must be equitably distributed. Non-marital property is separate property that each spouse amassed individually before the marriage. This latter area is not subject to equitable division.

Marital property may include:

  • The house, condominium, farm, vacation properties along with real estate and investment properties. If both of their names are listed as the owners, then this calls for an equal division. Follow-up scenarios include selling the house or having one spouse purchase the share of the other spouse.
  • Finances such as personal savings and checking accounts, money market accounts along with stocks and bonds.
  • Retirement accounts and pensions, including IRAs and 401(k) and 403(b) accounts along with work-related pension plans. (If you held onto a 401(k) account associated with a former employer and you stopped working there before the marriage, that is non-marital property.)
  • A jointly-owned business. In similar circumstances as a home, the sale of the business to a third party is an option, or one spouse buys the business share of the other.
  • Vehicles, including cars, trucks, motorcycles and recreational vehicles.
  • Certain personal properties such as collectibles, antiques and art.
  • Debts accumulated during a marriage.

And never forget to always be on the lookout for hidden assets. The trust in your relationship and marriage disintegrated. Sometimes when that occurs, spouses may not be on their best behavior, turning to surreptitious means to hide assets considered marital property.

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