Ideally, when a couple is happily married, no one is thinking in terms of “yours” versus “mine” versus “ours.” But when things break down, the distinction is critical because “who leaves with what” comes down to what is and is not “marital property.” According to fathers’ and children’s rights advocate and family law professor Anne P. Mitchell, “marital property” is generally everything accumulated during the marriage (regardless of whose name it’s in). Although it varies by state, generally, the following do not count as marital property:
- Anything owned by either spouse prior to the marriage or following separation
- An inheritance received separately by either spouse
- A gift received separately by either spouse
Check out some marriage advice from divorce attorneys.
Equitable distribution versus community property
Any divorcing couple can agree on any division of marital property, says Mitchell. However, before you make a settlement proposal, it helps to understand your best and worst-case scenarios if you went to court. That begins with knowing whether you live in an “equitable distribution” versus “community property” state. In equitable distribution states (all states except Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington), a judge would divvy up your marital property based on “equitable” principles. In community property states, marital property is divided 50/50.
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