1. What is equitable distribution?
Equitable distribution refers to the division of assets and debts acquired during the marriage. It does not matter if title to a particular asset or debt is in one spouse’s name. As long as the asset or debt was acquired after the marriage, with the few exceptions noted below, it is considered marital property and will be divided equally or in some other proportion between the spouses. The goal is to divide the marital property as fairly as possible. In mediation, couples are able to discuss and decide how best to distribute these assets and debts in a way that will work for both of them. As, mediators we will help you discuss all of the available options.
2. What are some examples of marital assets and debts?
- The house.
- Other real property, such as vacation homes or time shares.
- Checking and savings accounts.
- Retirement accounts and pensions.
- Stocks, bonds.
- Cars, boats, motorcycles.
- The value of a professional license obtained after the marriage.
- The value of a business owned by a spouse during the marriage.
- Credit card debt.
- Lines of credit.
- School loans.
3. Separate property will belong to one spouse only. Examples of separate property are:
a. Property that was acquired by one spouse before the marriage is generally considered separate property, unless the untitled spouse has contributed in some way to the appreciation of the separate property during the marriage.
b. Property that is acquired by gift to one spouse or by inheritance.
c. Proceeds of a personal injury award.
d. The disability portion of a pension, not the ordinary portion of the pension, will be considered separate property.
e. Anything purchased with the sale or trade of separate property.
If separate property was co-mingled with marital property, it may be considered marital property. For example, if one spouse put his or her inheritance in a joint account and used the money for household expenses it might be considered a marital asset. In another situation, one spouse might use their inheritance to put a down payment on a house for the family. If the spouse can show that their inheritance was used for the down payment by tracing it back, the down payment will most likely be considered separate property.