No one goes into marriage thinking about divorce. When getting married we all want to build a partnership that will last for a lifetime. Unfortunately, not all couples make it to forever and, in America, half of all marriages end in divorce.
If you find yourself in this position you’re going to have to deal with one of the most difficult and emotionally wrenching tasks that divorcing couples face – dividing property in a divorce. There are many assets that will need to be divided including financial assets, material possessions, and jointly held property like your home.
In a divorce, what was once “ours” splits into “yours” and “mine.” While you can easily agree not to live together, what will happen to the things you’ve worked so hard to acquire? Dividing marital assets can be the most difficult tasks in a divorce.
In this blog we will try to help you by outlining the different facets of dividing property in a divorce and providing you with suggestions on how to divide assets fairly and get through the divorce as smoothly as possible.
All is Fair But Not Equal in Divorce
Dividing a home, vehicles, investments, retirement benefits, and household items are where couples run into difficulty. Before a divorce is granted, all assets must be divided in a way that is satisfactory to both parties.
Since state laws vary, it’s crucial to comprehend your state’s exact laws on assets in a divorce. It’s important to remember that while all states have regulations that apply to the fair distribution of marital property, fair distribution may not always be equal.
Typically there are three dynamics that play into determining how to divide up property: The type of divorce you’re seeking, what kind of property you own and the state where you live.
Different Types of Divorce
In an uncontested divorce, both spouses reach an agreement on all the terms of the divorce and file the papers with the court. Usually there is no need for a formal trial in this situation. An uncontested divorce can be much less expensive than a contested divorce, saving you time, court costs and legal fees, as well as helping you avoid protracted disputes with your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
Typically when we think of divorce what comes to mind is a contested divorce. In these there is usually a lot of disagreement over key areas such as property, children and spousal support. Each spouse is represented by an attorney, and a judge oversees the case until settlement. A contested divorce can be long, expensive, contentious, and require a formal trial.
Others kinds of divorce fall someplace between contested and uncontested. Mediation, arbitration and collaborative options allow spouses to be independently represented by counsel without sustaining the full costs of a trial. The option that will work best for any couple depends on the level of disagreements between the spouses and their willingness to work together toward an equitable resolution.
What Kind of Property the Couple Owns and the State Where You Live
The division of property can be a significant issue during a divorce. Who gets the house is one of the most common questions that have to be answered by the spouses. State law will usually dictates the dividing up of the couple’s property. It’s based on whether you reside in a separate property state or a community property state.
Separate property belongs only to one spouse, such as something you owned before getting married, gifts or inheritances specifically given to you or the proceeds of a pension that vested to one spouse prior to the marriage.
Community property is everything that both of you earned and/or acquired during your marriage. Property bought with a combination of separate and community funds is generally considered community property.
The goal of property distribution is that it be equitable. In other words, assets and earnings accumulated during marriage are divided equitably (fairly), but not necessarily equally. What can make this confusing is that division of property does not always mean a physical division.
A court may award each spouse a percentage of the total value of the property. In that event, each spouse will get personal property, assets, and debts whose worth adds up to an assigned percentage.
Having young children can often be a determining factor in deciding whether one of the ex-spouses continues to live in the house. Even then, oftentimes the only equitable solution ends up being selling the house, dividing the proceeds, and each individual finds their own place to live. Let’s take a closer look at dividing your house
How Your House is Divided in Divorce
If you own a house with your spouse, it‘s probably your most valuable marital asset. Adding in the emotional connection to the family home, especially for children, means that deciding what to do with the house can frequently be the most challenging part of dividing your property.
It’s not just a question of who gets the house in the divorce, but also how the other spouse is compensated for their share of the equity, and whether you should move out during the divorce process. Decisions about the family home are also closely linked to other issues in the divorce, such as child custody, child support, and alimony.
There are a number of ways to address what happens to your house after divorce, such as:
- One spouse buys out the other spouse – If one spouse wants to keep the house, they’ll usually need to refinance the mortgage to raise the money to buy out the other spouse and put the property in their name. Depending on interest rates and your credit rating that might not always be viable.
- Selling the house – If you can’t afford a buyout or neither spouse wants to remain in the family home you can sell the house when you divorce and split the proceeds.
- Deferred sale – If it’s possible financially, you and your ex-spouse may continue to co-own the house after the divorce for a period of time. You might choose this alternative when one parent has primary physical custody of children who need the stability of staying in the family home. It might also make sense if the current real estate market is particularly weak.
If the house is one spouse’s separate property, that spouse will usually keep it. But if marital funds went to mortgage payments, renovations, and repairs, the other spouse could be entitled to part of the increase in the property’s value during the marriage.
Dividing Up Property Yourselves
If you are going to try to divide your property on your own, here are some steps to get you started:
- List your belongings – Make a list of all of the items that you own jointly omitting items both of you agree are personal things of insignificant value.
- Value the property – Try to agree on the value of anything worth more than a specific agreed amount. If there is a house, a business or anything that’s difficult to value, get an opinion from an agreed-upon outside authority.
- Decide on the logical owner – Go through your list and decide whether there is a valid reason for each piece of property to go to one or the other of you. Start with the biggest value items.
- Get the judge’s approval – If you and your spouse can agree on dividing the property you own together, the court will normally approve whatever agreement you’ve reached. The only exception is when a party who doesn’t have a lawyer seems to have agreed to take a lot less than half of the property.
Dividing property in a divorce in a way that works for both spouses makes for the ideal divorce. Agreements over property division can hasten the divorce process and keep communication lines open; something of vital concern for couples with shared custody of minor children.
The key to agreeable division of assets lies in cooperation and an inclination to be fair. Specific information within each state should be gained from a practicing attorney to protect all parties. Although your marital property will not survive a divorce intact, it won’t be destroyed either. The better you can work with your ex-to-be, the more you both can retain.
At Black Girls Buy Houses we’re here to help if you need to sell your house quickly as part of dividing property in a divorce settlement. We buy houses for cash, in as-is condition, and close the sale in a matter of a few weeks. Feel free to contact us if you want to learn more about how we can help you sell your house quickly. Or, if you’ve already made the decision, click here to get started on selling your home.