What Am I Entitled to in a Divorce?
Factors that may impact asset division during divorce.
Dividing assets in divorce
Divorce laws vary state by state in the U.S., and so do the circumstances surrounding each couple’s divorce. The following factors can influence the outcome of how assets are divided during a divorce:
- How long you and your spouse have been married.
- The reasons surrounding the dissolution of the marriage.
- Whether one spouse is in the military or not.
- Whether one spouse is disabled or not.
- The age of each spouse.
- Whether or not you and your spouse have children.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to what you are entitled to in a divorce. The only guideline is that both assets and debts should be divided fairly. Fair does not necessarily mean equal, and your perception of what is fair may be vastly different from your ex’s.
Equitable division of property in divorce
Marital assets generally refer to everything you and your spouse acquire together during your marriage, regardless of how it is titled. For example, the deed to the house may be in your spouse’s name even though you purchased it during your marriage. That makes it marital property. On the flip side, even though the mortgage to the house is only in your spouse’s name, it’s your debt too. Here is a list of common marital assets and liabilities that may need to be divided during divorce:
- Your primary home
- Vacation residences or rentals
- Vacation club or country club residences
- Business property
- Personal property such as home furnishings, jewelry, artwork, antiques, boats, motorcycles, etc.
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- 401(k) plans
- Stocks and bonds
- Stock options
- College savings accounts
- Mutual funds
- Life insurance
Alimony or spousal support isn’t an automatic part of a divorce settlement. Alimony payments are negotiated between divorcing spouses as part of their divorce settlement or ordered by the court if the couple can’t agree. When the courts get involved, alimony is usually not granted for couples who have only been married a short time.
Alimony is intended to allow both spouses to continue a similar standard of living. In many cases, one spouse may have chosen to forego a career or only work part-time to help care for the family. If you are not currently working or are only working part-time, that does not necessarily mean you will get alimony. Some of the factors the court will consider in cases involving alimony are:
- What are you capable of earning if you go back into the workforce and obtain a full-time job?
- How long will it take your job prospects to improve if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while?
Child support isn’t an automatic part of a divorce settlement, even if you have children. If you and your spouse earn approximately the same income and are sharing custody of your children, child support payments may not be necessary.
Child support payments are used to pay for expenses specifically related to the care and well-being of the children, including housing, food, clothing, schooling, daycare, healthcare, and extracurricular activity expenses. Child support payments ordered by the court don’t always include things like college, orthodontics care, car insurance, or cell phone plans. These are items that you and your spouse may need to negotiate separately as part of your parenting plan.
Most often, child support payments occur when one parent does not have physical custody of the child. It is also commonly seen when joint physical custody is not shared between the parents. However, child support payments can be required in a 50/50 physical custody split because one parent earns substantially more than the other. The courts generally want to make sure a child benefits from the same standard of living he or she would have enjoyed if the marriage had not dissolved.
If you and your spouse need a way to coordinate child support payments and other expenses after divorce, consider signing up for TalkingParents. In addition to Secure Messaging, Accountable Calling, and the Shared Calendar, we offer Accountable Payments, which allows co-parents to securely send or receive money.
Who gets what in a divorce?
Ultimately, what you are entitled to in the divorce comes down to what you are able to negotiate with your former spouse and how your lawyer represents your interests to the judge. For many divorcing couples, negotiating an agreement outside of the court, through mediation or arbitration, is preferable to having a judge make the final determination on splitting assets. Consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area to learn more about your options.