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Checklist: Dividing Marital Property

Married couples usually commingle their assets and purchase goods together, so the lines of ownership are blurred. This is a non-issue when couples are happily married and sharing resources, but can become a big headache after a divorce filing. Items that are purchased or otherwise acquired by a married couple are collectively referred to as "marital property." Dividing marital property can be difficult and stressful, so it makes sense to learn about the marital property laws in your state and properly prepare.

Some states (including California and Texas) recognize the legal theory of "community property," in which all property acquired during the marriage is divided equally -- although the divorcing parties may agree to divide items as they see fit. In states that don't recognize community property (such as Florida and Illinois), the judge weighs arguments on both sides and applies formulas in order to figure out how property is to be divided.

In addition to the division of property and assets in a divorce, the two parties may be required to divide debt and other liabilities as well. This may include debt on shared credit card accounts, mortgages, and outstanding bills for goods or services purchased during marriage, to give some examples. The divided obligations for taking care of debts after a divorce will depend on several factors, including each party's income.

When dividing marital property, it's easy to get caught up in who gets the big stuff--the cars, the house, the boat. In actuality, all of your marital property must be divided, and in the heat of a disputed divorce it may be easy for some important details to fall through the cracks. The following checklist can help you keep your bearings so that you and your attorney can work together to formulate a property settlement that is in your best interests.

To learn more about dividing marital property and related matters, see FindLaw's Divorce and Property section.

  • Real Property

    ____ Marital homestead

    ____ Vacation home(s)

    ____ Business property

    ____ Rental property

    ____ Undeveloped land

  • Personal Property

    ____ Home furnishings

    ____ Rugs

    ____ Antiques

    ____ Artwork

    ____ China

    ____ Crystal

    ____ Coin collections

    ____ Stamp collections

    ____ Collectibles

    ____ Guns

    ____ Computers

    ____ Home office equipment

    ____ Jewelry

    ____ Clothing

    ____ Furs

    ____ Motor vehicles

    ____ Boats

    ____ Campers

    ____ Recreational vehicles

    ____ ATVs

  • Financial Assets

    ____ Cash on hand

    ____ Checking accounts

    ____ Savings accounts

    ____ Christmas club accounts

    ____ Educational accounts

    ____ Retirement accounts

    ____ 401(k) plans

    ____ Pensions

    ____ Profit sharing

    ____ IRAs

    ____ Stocks and bonds

    ____ Mutual funds

    ____ Certificates of deposit

    ____ Annuities

    ____ Life insurance policy cash values

    ____ Trusts

  • Business Assets

    ____ Sole proprietorships

    ____ Partnerships

    ____ Professional practice

    ____ Professional degree

    ____ Other business interests

  • Other




Dividing marital property is not easy and requires both patience and a thorough understanding of marital property law. If you have additional questions or require legal representation, consider contacting a divorce lawyer near you.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified divorce attorney to make sure
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(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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