Checklist: Dividing 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.

Married couples usually combine 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 it can become a big headache in the divorce process. Items purchased or otherwise acquired by a married couple are collectively called "marital property." All other non-marital property is called "separate property."


State Marital Property Laws: Overview

Nine states (including California and Texas) are community property states. This means all property acquired during the marriage is divided equally.

In states that don't recognize community property (such as Florida and Illinois), the judge weighs arguments on both sides. They will apply formulas to determine an equitable distribution of assets.

Equitable division focuses on what is fair, not necessarily equal. In all states, the parties in a divorce may reach a divorce settlement where they agree on how to divide the assets. This is typically done through divorce lawyers and/or mediation.

Marital Debts and Liabilities

In addition to the division of property and marital assets in a divorce, the two parties may be required to divide debt and other liabilities. This may include debt on shared credit card accounts, mortgages, and outstanding bills for goods or services purchased during the 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 family home, the boat. In actuality, all of your marital property must be divided. In the heat of disputed divorce proceedings, it may be easy for some important details to fall through the cracks. This property division checklist can help you keep your bearings so that you and your attorney can work together to formulate a property settlement in your best interests.

Real Property

  • ____ Marital homestead
  • ____ Vacation home(s)
  • ____ Business property
  • ____ Rental property
  • ____ Undeveloped land
  • ____ Other real estate

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
  • ____ Other bank accounts
  • ____ Retirement accounts
  • ____ 401(k) plans
  • ____ Pensions
  • ____ Retirement Plans
  • ____ Profit sharing
  • ____ IRAs
  • ____ Stock options and bonds
  • ____ Mutual funds
  • ____ Certificates of deposit
  • ____ Annuities
  • ____ Life insurance policy cash values
  • ____ Trusts

Business Assets

Need Help Dividing Marital Property? Contact a Family Law Attorney

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

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • You may not need an attorney for a simple divorce with uncontested issues
  • Legal advice is critical to protect your interests in a contested divorce
  • Divorce lawyers can help secure fair custody/visitation, support, and property division

An attorney is a skilled advocate during negotiations and court proceedings. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Divorce is an ideal time to review your beneficiary designations on life insurance, bank accounts, and retirement accounts. You need to change your estate planning forms to reflect any new choices about your personal representative and beneficiaries. You can change your power of attorney if you named your ex-spouse as your agent. Also, change your health care directive to remove them from making your health care decisions.

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