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Equitable Distribution Law


In most states property division is determined by equitable distribution laws when a couple is filing for divorce. In an equitable distribution state, the divorce court views the marriage as an economic partnership, where both spouses contributed to the relationship.

When determining property distribution, the divorce court first categorizes all the property as martial property or separate or nonmarital property. The divorce court then assigns value to the property and then distributes the marital property by what seems reasonable and fair.

Marital property is evaluated by the divorce court by the date the property was acquired and how it was acquired. Divorce courts usually interprets marital property so more of the marital estate is divided by equitable distribution.

Separate or nonmarital property is not affect by equitable distribution laws. Property considered separate may be property acquired before marriage, as compensation for personal injuries, in exchange for or the increased value of separate property or defined as nonmarital property in a written agreement. If any separate property has been intermixed with marital property, the divorce court may consider it or the appreciated value of the property as marital property.

Factors Affecting Equitable Distribution

Equitable distribution doesn't necessarily mean that marital assets are equally distributed, like in community property law. The divorce court will consider many circumstances of the divorce to determine how to make debt and asset division.

Both spouses are required to include their financial circumstances and any alimony awards. Each spouse may be required to exchange sworn Statements of New Worth. Anyone refusing to disclose all financial information that is correct may face penalties or sanctions.

The factors divorce courts consider when determining property distribution include:

  • Income and property of each spouse when married
  • Length of the marriage
  • Age and health of both spouses
  • Spousal abuse or adultery
  • Custodial parent's need to live in the family home
  • Loss of inheritance or pension after divorce
  • Alimony award
  • Liquid or nonliquid character of marital property
  • Future financial gains
  • Tax consequences
  • Dissipation of assets or hidden assets
  • Contribution or interest in marital property
  • Impossibility of evaluating assets and the economic desire to keep the asset free from claim by the other spouse
  • Other factors that may affect reasonable distribution

Speak to a Divorce Attorney about Equitable Distribution

A local divorce lawyer can answer your questions about equitable distribution and help give you an idea on what to expect in property division. Learn about how to protect certain property and property distribution concerns you should be aware of by speaking with a divorce attorney near you.

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The above summary of equitable distribution is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on these laws, speak to a local divorce lawyer in your state.