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." All other, non-marital property is called "separate 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.

State Marital Property Laws: Overview

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 determine an equitable distribution of assets.

Marital Debts and Liabilities

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.

Dividing Marital Property: A Checklist

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.

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

Need Help Dividing Marital Property? Contact an Attorney

The number of legal issues surrounding a divorce can be overwhelming. Alimony, custody, child support, division of assets and retirement benefits accumulated during the marriage, visitation rights, and other legal matters all must be handled carefully. A great place to start is to immediately contact a local divorce attorney to get the proper guidance.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified divorce attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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