Who gets what in a divorce?

From the day you entered marriage, your marital estate likely has been growing.  The house, the condo at the beach, the business that you built, the retirement benefits, stocks, bank accounts, furniture, automobiles, wedding gifts, (and let’s not forget all the debt that may have been incurred to obtain or maintain these things), or whatever else that may have been accumulated or used during the course of your marriage now comprises your marital estate and is subject to division between you and your spouse.  Before we can obtain an answer “Who gets what?”, and before we can begin to formulate a winning strategy to persuade the trial court to answer that question favorably to you, we first need you to educate us.

First, it must be determined what assets and debts comprise the marital estate (those subject to division), and what assets or debts may be considered separate property (those not subject to division).  Sometimes, what you think may be your separate property is not.  Understand that how certain assets or debts are held or titled, whether in one spouse’s name or jointly with the other, doesn’t definitively determine whether those assets or debts are considered to be a part of the marital estate.  Instead, the use of those assets and debts during the course of the marriage may definitively answer that question.

Once we identify what comprises the marital estate, we then need to obtain values for each component.  What is the fair market value of the home?  What is the amount of retirement benefits that have been accumulated during the marriage?  How do we obtain a value of business interests that one or both spouses may have?

Alabama is an equitable distribution state (not a community property state), which means that your marital estate should be divided equitably (or fairly) between you and your spouse depending on the unique facts and circumstances of your marriage and the breakdown thereof.  First and foremost, recognize that what may seem equitable depends on a person’s perspective that is often gained through experience or knowledge of a certain matter.  Ever mindful of this truism, once the value of each component of the marital estate has been valued, we can then begin a pragmatic approach of formulating persuasive, equitable arguments, bolstered by evidence and testimony, as to why the marital estate should be divided in your favor or in a manner that you desire.  

In order to help navigate you through this process, some topics of discussion that you need to have with the lawyer in the initial consultation, or soon after the client-lawyer relationship has been formed, may be:

  • How do I identify all the assets and debts if my spouse hasn’t shared what those are with me?
  • If my name isn’t on the title to certain assets, does that mean I don’t have an interest in those assets?
  • Is my inheritance going to be subject to division?
  • Does “fault” matter in determining who gets what?
  • How do I determine the value of our home?
  • How do I determine the value of our business?
  • How do I determine the value of the retirement benefits that have been accumulated during our marriage?
  • What are the options regarding the disposition of our home?
  • Will my spouse be ordered to buy me out of our business, or will we remain as business partners after the divorce?
  • What if the make-up of our marital estate makes it difficult to liquidate or divide?
  • Can I keep my engagement and wedding ring, and how do we divide the wedding gifts?
  • If I brought certain property into the marriage, will I be able to retain it?
  • How do we divide all the furniture, furnishings and other personal possessions?
  • Am I liable on the debt on our house…on the debt on our cars?
  • How do we divide joint credit card debt?
  • What if my soon-to-be former spouse fails to pay debts that are jointly held?
  • What if my former spouse never conveyed certain properties that were awarded me?
  • What taxable consequences may be incurred?

At Boyd, Fernambucq & Dunn, P.C. our experienced litigators are prepared to answer each of these important questions for you.  Recognizing that you deserve a fair and equitable division of the marital estate based on the particular facts and circumstances on your individual case, we strive to negotiate and structure property settlement agreements that are tailored to your circumstances and that achieve your desired outcome.  However, when the need arises, we stand ready to litigate in order to obtain these results for you.  

If you would like to schedule a consultation with any of our lawyers to discuss any property division matter, or the possibility of an appeal which involves any of these issues, please contact the particular lawyer’s assistant with whom you would like to schedule an appointment by obtaining their email address here, or by locating this information under the particular lawyer’s attorney profile. 

Our goal is to help people in the best way possible. this is a basic principle in every case and cause for success. contact us today for a free consultation. 

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