Depending on the couple, one of the more challenging aspects of divorce can be the division of property and assets. If you're contemplating divorce, you may be wondering about how that's determined and what might happen.
If possible, it's in your best interest to come to an agreement about property division with your soon-to-be ex ahead of time. If you're able to agree, you can indicate your preferences in a settlement agreement to be included in your divorce decree. You'll also save yourself time and money.
If there's too much conflict or you can't agree, a court will be asked to make the decision on your behalf. Alabama is an equitable property distribution state, which means property is divided between each party fairly but not necessarily equally.
Marital vs. non-marital property
If the court becomes involved in this process, the first step is to determine which property will be part of the decision and the value it holds. Property and assets acquired during the marriage are considered "marital property" and will be part of a property division decision.
Anything acquired outside of the marriage (prior to the marriage or after the date of legal separation) is considered "non-marital property" and excluded from the decision. Gifts and legacies to one spouse are also typically excluded as is anything specified in a prior written agreement.
Factors to be considered
In equitable distribution, courts have broad discretion to arrive at a fair decision. Each case has many variables but to reach a resolution, a judge will consider several factors:
- Financial standing of both parties
- Age, occupation and health of each
- Length of the marriage
- Contribution of each spouse toward acquisition of the property
- Custodial arrangements
- Conduct of each party during the marriage
The goal of the court is to arrive at a fair decision, but the process of dividing a family's property can be complex, especially if there are significant assets. When your conflict and emotions run high in divorce, it's best to consult an attorney for legal direction.