Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution

What is Equitable Distribution?

Divorcing a spouse can be difficult not just because a marriage is coming to an end, but also due to all the legal steps you have to take during the process as well. One of these legal steps is equitable distribution. Equitable distribution is the process by which the Courts divide marital and divisible property. It is the presumption that all marital assets and debts should be divided equally. Marital assets are defined as anything that was acquired during the marriage and before the date of separation. 

With each spouse having a right to 50% of all marital assets acquired during the marriage, it can take some time to sort through. Assets can include:

  • Property 
  • Cars
  • Pets
  • Retirement 
  • Bank accounts

Even if one spouse’s name is on all titles, everything is still to be divided equally. 

How Does Equitable Distribution Work?

After separation, the former spouses will attend mediation to determine how the property division will work. 

While things like money and cars may be easier to divide, houses and pets can be more difficult. There are a couple ways to go about such matters:

  • House: When dividing a house, you can either 1. Sell it and divide the proceeds or 2. One person will take it and pay the other side their half of it. 
  • Pets: The division of pets can be an especially draining process. For this, you can either 1. Divide the pets by number, 2. One party will get custody, or 3. One party will get custody and the other will get regular visitation and first right of refusal.

Exceptions in Equitable Distribution

While equitable distribution is usually a straightforward process, there are some exceptions to the 50/50 split. 

  1. A prenup is already in place: If a prenup is already in place, marital assets will be divided according to what the prenup states. Prenups are usually made in the scenario where one or both of the spouses enters into the marriage with a significant amount of property, income, or retirement. 
  2. Gifts: Gifts given to one spouse from a third party is considered their separate property and therefore will not be divided. This can include money, cars, or pets.
  3. Inheritance: Any inheritance that one spouse receives will be considered their separate property. However, if this inheritance is put into joint names, it can then be considered marital property. 
  4. Destruction of property: If someone does something to devalue the estate or withdrawals thousands of dollars from a joint bank account and squanders the money, the Court can grant an unequal division of property. 
  5. Repossession– If one spouse stops making payments that result in cars or homes becoming foreclosed or repossessed, the Court can grant an unequal division of property. 

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