• How is property ownership determined in a divorce?

    When there is a divorce, not only is the marriage severed but the property that the couple owns is divided also. Property solely owned by one spouse prior to the marriage agreement may remain the property of that individual after the divorce. However, everything that was obtained after the marriage is likely to be divided up at the time of divorce. The simplest way to determine who gets what in a divorce is to civilly decide it among the spouses without using the help of the court but usually one or both of the spouses cannot agree on the arrangements and consequently the court decides what to do with property, debt, assets, insurance policies, etc.

    The court will handle divorce property division in two different: community property and equitable distribution. Community property states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Puerto Rico. In these community property states, property is usually divided up evenly right down the middle and separate ownership items are left with their original owners.

    The second way the court will handle divorce property division is through equitable distribution. Equitable distribution is used by most of the states that were not listed above that follow the community property guidelines. In these states, the judge will decide what is equitable instead of splitting the property in half for each spouse to get an even share. Each spouse is granted a suitable percentage depending on how the judge evaluates the situation.

    Community property is all the property that is bought or gained during the marriage, which includes debts and loans.

    Separate property is all property that was obtained by each individual spouse before the commencement of the marriage. For example if one spouse inherits property before marriage, that is considered separate property. Separate property may become community property throughout the period of the marriage if the property is sustained by the marriage. For example if one spouse owns a business before the commencement of the marriage, it may become community property and belong to both spouses subject to equal separation of the business and or funds concerning the business.

    Lastly, the home is an issue that spouses differ in opinion over. The court decides who may keep the marital home based on different circumstances. For example, if one spouse does most of the child-raising duties they are likely to be granted the marital home by the court. Another situation that may occur is if one spouse solely purchased the home in which the couple lives in and they have yet to have children, the spouse that paid in full for the home is likely to get the home and they may ask the other spouse to leave the home. When there are no children, the court will look to state laws in determining who will keep the home. In this situation neither spouse can demand the other to vacate but the court can request they both vacate or make the decision together. As a result, it may be illegal for one spouse to change the locks and or lock the other spouse out of the home for any period of time.
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