What is Equitable Distribution?
In a divorce case, Equitable Distribution is the process of identifying, classifying, valuing, and allocating all of the marital assets and debts. Marital assets may include real property (such as the family home), tangible personal property (such as vehicles, boats, household items, clothing, etc.), and intangible personal property (such as banking and investment accounts, retirement accounts, stocks and stock options, business interests, and intellectual property interests). Marital debts may include secured debts (such as the mortgage on the family home or a vehicle purchase loan) or unsecured debts (such as credit card debts, income tax debts, and student loans).
How are the Assets and Debts Allocated Between the Spouses?
If you and your spouses can agree, you may divide your assets and debts in any manner you both see fit. Otherwise, the divorce court will allocate your assets and debts in a manner the Court considers equitable (fair). The Court is required to consider the equitable-distribution statutory factors. These factors include facts and circumstances leading to the breakdown of your marriage, the mental and physical health of you and your spouse, and how long you've been married. They also include the monetary and non-monetary contributions you've each made to the acquisition of property and the well being of your family. The Court is not required to divide property equally. Instead, the Court will allocate the assets and debts in the manner it deems fair, based on its analysis of the statutory factors.
Can the Spouses Agree on How to Divide the Property?
You and your spouse are entitled to divide your property and debts as you both choose. We encourage our clients to settle the property-division issue. It saves you time and money to reach an agreement on the division of property and debts instead of leaving it in the judge's hands. And unlike most other family law issues -- spousal support is an exception -- once you and your spouse have signed your agreement about property and debts, the divorce court will enter a divorce order consistent with your agreement. They have no authority to do otherwise.