To end your marriage in the Midwest, you must prepare for a difficult and complex property division process. Divorce is not only the legal process of terminating a marriage contract but also of dividing ownership rights over the couple’s property. Every state enforces different statutes concerning property division in divorce, and most US states use the equitable distribution standard.

As the name suggests, a property division process that unfolds under the equitable distribution standard aims for the fairest possible division of marital assets. However, one person’s interpretation of what would be “fair” in divorce may conflict with their soon-to-be ex-spouse’s impression of the situation. If you are getting ready for divorce proceedings in any state that upholds the equitable distribution standard, you should know the different types of property that demand consideration and how state law could influence the outcome of your divorce.

What Is “Equitable” in Property Division?

Nine states use a community property statute to make property division easier in divorce cases. However, most people find the community property law overbearing and unreasonable for certain issues that may arise in a divorce. Under community property law, all marital assets and debts are split evenly between spouses. With the equitable distribution standard, the court must closely review the parties involved and determine what would be fairest, given their unique circumstances.

When a couple takes their divorce to a Midwest family court for finalization, the judge handling the case must review their respective financial disclosure statements. The judge must verify the couple’s shared financial records and their respective separate property before delivering a ruling on property division. The judge’s legal duty is to determine property division in the fairest possible manner.

An equitable distribution determination certainly requires careful consideration of the spouses’ respective financial disclosure statements, and every marriage will involve various unique dynamics that factor into property division. Some of the factors the judge is likely to consider most heavily include:

  • Each spouse’s current income. If one spouse earns much more than the other, or if one spouse was the sole breadwinner during the marriage, the lower-earning spouse is likely to recover a greater share of marital property to reflect this disparity.
  • The work histories, education, and job prospects of each spouse. If one spouse requires time and effort to qualify for appropriately gainful employment, they may receive not only a greater share of the marital property but also spousal support from their ex.
  • Contributions either spouse has made toward the other spouse’s education, career, or business ventures. For example, if one spouse left their job to maintain the couple’s household while the other advanced their career, the judge must consider this a significant contribution to the marriage.
  • The underlying reason for the divorce is one spouse’s mistreatment of the other. If one spouse commits any type of domestic violence or spousal abuse, they are likely to face criminal charges. Most states do not recognize divorce “with cause” or require a divorcing spouse to give a specific reason for filing for divorce.
  • The age, health, and medical conditions of each spouse. A divorcing spouse may have medical issues that prevent them from working and impose long-term financial strains. Judges may not only assess these factors to resolve property division but also for assigning spousal support rights and responsibilities to the divorcing spouses.
  • The respective spouses’ custody and visitation rights. When one parent assumes a larger share of physical custody over their children, this may not only lead to them receiving child support payments from the other parent but also factor into their equitable distribution results.
  • Each spouse’s cumulative separate property. If one spouse owns significantly more separate assets than the other, the judge will weigh this in their equitable distribution determination.
  • Business assets and investments owned by each spouse. An experienced divorce attorney can be an invaluable asset for protecting your business from your divorce.

These are only a few examples of the various factors a judge may need to consider when they resolve property division in an equitable distribution state. Your attorney can provide more detailed guidance concerning the unique aspects of your divorce.

How to Prepare for Your Equitable Distribution Proceedings

Regardless of what unique issues your divorce entails and what you expect to see from your property division determination, compiling your financial disclosure statement is one of the most important things you must do to prepare for your proceedings. This formal packet of documents and records establishes your separate property ownership claims and provides your side of your shared financial records with your spouse.

It is vital that you are complete and accurate with your financial disclosure statement. Any errors can lead to delays in your proceedings. If you intentionally leave out any pertinent information in an effort to shield your assets from property division, you risk contempt of court and criminal penalties. If you suspect your spouse has done so, consult your attorney as soon as possible and discuss your concerns.

Preparing for an equitable distribution determination requires the completion of your financial disclosure statement and careful attention to detail throughout your proceedings. If any disputes arise, your attorney can help you determine the best possible options for resolving them.

Long-Term Financial Effects of Divorce

It’s natural to have concerns about the potential outcomes of your equitable distribution determination in a Midwest divorce, but you can alleviate these concerns and increase your chances of reaching a favorable outcome by hiring the right attorney to represent you in family court. Your legal team can help you complete your financial disclosure statement efficiently and address any problems that arise on your behalf.

Time is a critical concern in any family law case, especially a divorce in which property division is likely to be hotly contested. Whatever your case may entail, you will be better equipped to handle the unique challenges it presents by hiring legal counsel you can trust. Contact a Midwest divorce attorney as soon as possible to discuss your impending divorce and what you can expect in an equitable distribution determination.