How Property Division Works in Divorce Court

How Property Division Works in Divorce Court

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When going through a divorce, one of the first questions you might have is which property and debts am I responsible for, and which ones are my ex-spouse responsible for? To find the answer to these, and other questions you have, it is best to consult with a divorce lawyer. But, every state has its own laws and every divorce court judge has different manners in determining asset, finance, and debt distribution.

If the couple agrees – 

The best route to deciding which spouse gets what (property) and which one pays what (debts and joint accounts), as this keeps you out of court, and makes life easier for all parties. But, if this does not happen, and when divorces aren’t amicable (which they typically aren’t) these are a few factors which go into deciding which spouse gets what (property and debts).

Community property

This is basically the property you purchased jointly. A home, opening a bank account together, cars, or other property you purchased together, are typically divided equally between both parties. The court will review all financial documents, the value of property and debts, and will usually split this down the middle between both sides. Again, this is only the case in states where community property laws are in place.

Equitable distribution – 

This is the second alternative the court will take into consideration when determining what either spouse is going to receive when divorce goes through the court system. In states where community property laws are not in place, this is the alternative the courts will take in distributing property and debts. In these situations, the court will force one spouse to use separate property, in order to make the divorce fair. So if one spouse earns more, and the other spouse was in charge of family affairs and taking care of the kids, this will be accounted for in distributing assets and debts. The court will consider earnings, salary, and what each spouse gave to the marriage (how they contributed) in order to equally distribute the debts and assets, so as to avoid one party being unfairly responsible for all debts, while the other party receives all benefits (property, bank accounts, etc) in the divorce hearing.


In most states and jurisdictions, the court might force the parties to go through a mediation hearing. If this is the case, it is best to have a divorce attorney with you. Not only to ensure the opposing side does not try to take advantage of you during the divorce, but also to ensure everything discussed and agreed upon, is equal and fair for both sides.

In every divorce, the court will review all pertinent information during the divorce proceedings. Regardless of how much debt you have as a couple, what assets you possess, or which spouse contributed most, there are different laws in place in each state and jurisdiction. For this reason, it is best to have a divorce lawyer on your side, to ensure the distribution is fair, and to ensure your rights are fully preserved during the hearings.

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