A top issue during most divorces is how to divide property equitably between spouses. This is property division at its most basic. The factors that all play an integral part in this process include how long a couple was married, how much each couple earned while married, and the assets that the couple had prior to and during their marriage.
In the state of Alabama, each spouse keeps his or her own separate property, but many times what is a spouse’s separate property is a disputed issue which Jessie Hardy and the team at J Hardy Family Law are prepared to navigate you through. Marital assets are properties a couple acquires during marriage. Marital property also extends to any debts belonging to either spouse during the length of the marriage. At times when couples can't agree on how the marital property will be divided, the case goes to court, and a judge decides the division of property based on what is equitable and fair. There are 3 steps to process any agreements for property division.
The first step requires couples to look at their assets and decide what is separate or marital assets. In Alabama, property that was obtained before marriage stays separate (non-marital) and cannot be divided during divorce. Gifts and anything relating to inheritance also cannot be divided, if these assets were not commingled with the marital estate or “used regularly for the common benefit of the marriage.” In a court of law where couples cannot come to an agreement over the division of property a judge can divide property in any way that is fair and best for the couple. Retirement accounts and other annuities can only be divided based on the amount earned or invested in those accounts during the time of the marriage, and the spouse who does not hold the policy only receives a certain percentage of the account or earnings.
Other things to consider when determining what property and/or debt is marital or separate also includes joint or separate bank accounts, and commingling accounts (where one spouse makes deposits to another spouse's separate accounts). In the event of a divorce a judge will divide a commingled account based on multiple factors, including the use of the account and the amount that's been invested into the account during the marriage.
To divide property, monetary value is assigned to all property and other items like antiques, artwork, and retirement assets. Value can be assessed through appraisals, public record, online resources, real estate experts, financial advisors, CPAs, or other financial professionals.
Once a value is assigned to marital property, it can be divided. There are various ways to divide marital property:
Selling property and dividing the proceeds
Assigning certain items to each spouse
Dividing shared investment properties
Transferring retirement account monies to either spouse via a tax-free order
Assign debt gained during the marriage (mortgage, car loans, credit card debts, etc.)
There are other factors that impact how a court may divide property between spouses in divorce. It is important to hire a qualified attorney like Jessie Hardy to go over the options for dividing your property after marriage.
Contact our office and set up a consultation today.