If you have decided to end your marriage, you may feel overwhelmed by the very thought of dividing property during your divorce.
Property division can be a complex and sometimes confusing undertaking. However, if you prepare in advance, the process will go more smoothly than you anticipate.
What will happen
The property division phase of your divorce begins with the identification of the marital assets you and your spouse own as well as those categorized as separate or non-marital assets. You must apply a value to each and establish a plan for the division that is fair to both parties. In making a determination, the court will consider the length of your marriage as well as your current income and projected future income. If you have children, the court will prioritize their needs.
Preparing for property division
You and your spouse should each have a set of financial documents; for example, your mortgage papers, bank accounts, investments, retirement plans and information concerning any business ventures. Before the divorce process begins, it is a good idea to close any joint credit card accounts and establish separate credit. You should also open separate bank accounts and split your monthly income in half until the court determines the division of post-divorce income. If you need to maintain a joint bank account, prepare a written agreement stating the purpose of the funds. Use both your signatures when writing checks on that account. If you have investments, freeze them so that no misuse will occur before the divorce process.
Tell your attorney if you suspect that your spouse has spent money foolishly, perhaps by engaging in an extramarital affair, or whether he or she has hidden assets. In the first instance, the court will hold your spouse accountable during the property division process; in the second instance, an investigation will turn up any assets that should be out on the table.
Once you are well prepared for dividing marital property, you can rely on legal guidance to keep you organized and well-informed. The goal is to protect your rights and see you through the divorce, including the property division phase, as efficiently and painlessly as possible.