If you’re heading towards what feels like an inevitable divorce, it may be worth your time to start thinking about how your assets will be divided. If you signed a prenuptial agreement, the division of your assets is already determined, and you should review that agreement with your attorney as soon as you can. If, however, you did not sign a prenuptial agreement, there are certain steps you should take to prepare for the division of assets that will come along with your divorce.
Assets Brought into the Marriage
Generally speaking, any property, financial assets, or debts that you acquired prior to your marriage are considered separate property, and not a part of the marital estate. This means that you should be awarded these possessions or financial assets in your divorce. However, it’s important that you provide proof of sole ownership to the judge, so you should begin gathering those documents now to ensure your property is protected.
If you purchased a home, car, or similar type of property prior to divorce, get a copy of the deed or title showing that you are the sole owner, and that it was purchased before the marriage. If there are other expensive possessions that you wish to retain ownership of (entertainment systems, expensive jewelry, etc.), you may have to search through your personal financial records, such as credit card statements, to find proof that the item was purchased before you were married.
Inheritances Received during Marriage
Another important factor to consider in your divorce asset division is any large inheritances you may have received during your marriage. If you inherited a large sum of money or a valuable piece of property from a relative, that property should belong solely to you, assuming you were listed as the heir in the individual’s will or trust.
You will need to contact your relative’s estate and request a copy of the will or trust to prove that you are the sole inheritor of the money or property. This piece of documentation should allow you to claim sole ownership during the asset division process.
Assets Acquired during Marriage
Assuming there is no prenuptial agreement, any assets or debts acquired during the time you were married will be equally divided during your divorce. So, if you bought a house after you were married, both the property and the debt associated with it belong to you and your spouse equally. It’s important to note that this can even apply to property that was bought only in your name. For example, if you purchased a car during your marriage, and it was put only in your name because your spouse had poor credit, it still belongs to both of you equally.
If there is any property acquired during your marriage that you strongly desire to keep during the asset division, your best course of action is to approach your spouse and his or her attorney to discuss the division of these items. (It may even be best to do this prior to moving forward with your divorce, since things can get more complicated once the legal proceedings begin.)
Assuming you can reach an agreement on the property you wish to keep, you can have your spouse sign a quit claim deed to relinquish his or her rights to the property. If you come to an agreement on any possessions for which there are no deeds or titles, be sure to get the agreement written down on paper and signed.
Debts Accrued during Marriage
Dividing debts acquired during marriage can be a bit more complicated. As an example, let’s say your spouse has signed a quit claim deed to surrender any ownership on your home. While this will remove his or her name from the deed on the home, he or she will still be on the mortgage, and equally responsible for the debt on the property.
The only way to remove your spouse’s name from the mortgage would be to refinance it after the quit claim deed is signed, but this is a different matter entirely, and won’t necessarily be an option for everyone. The court can also order you to find individual financing, or may even order a refinancing as a requirement of you receiving the property during asset division.
Dividing your assets and debts can often be one of the most complicated parts of a divorce, so you should have an attorney on your side who is an expert in divorce and asset protection. Contact The Harr Law Firm today to get help with protecting your assets during your divorce.