It’s a common myth that in every divorce, property and assets are divided 50-50. In truth the division of property can be far more complicated, and you’ll need an experienced Oklahoma family lawyer to help you make sure you’re getting your fair share of the marital assets.
Seperate Property versus Marital Property
Before understanding how property is divided in a divorce, you need to know which property will be divided. There is a difference between separate property and marital property, and only marital property will be divided during the divorce.
Separate property is a rather narrow category: it consists of property either spouse owned before the marriage, gifts from a third party to either spouse (but not both), and inheritance and legal settlements obtained by either spouse during the marriage. So for instance, a TV you bought before marriage is yours alone, but a computer you bought while married is not. A gift to you from your boss belongs to you, but a gift your spouse gives you doesn’t.
Anything that isn’t separate property is marital or community property, and these are the assets up for division. Any property acquired during a marriage is marital property, regardless of how it is titled or who “owns” it. This includes cars, houses, bank accounts, and all other property and assets.
Oklahoma, along with 40 other states, is classed as an Equitable Distribution state. That means that marital property (but not separate property) must be divided equitably, or fairly, either through a joint agreement by both spouses or, failing that, by the court. Note that, in this context, fair does not mean equal – the distribution of property could be far from 50-50. Rather, an equitable distribution takes into account a number of different factors.
What are the factors that decide equitable distribution? In many cases, fair distribution is left to the spouses themselves. If you and your spouse decide that a certain property distribution is fair, you can attest to that fairness in court and walk away with relatively little hassle. It’s only in cases that the spouses cannot agree on a fair distribution themselves that the court will step in.
In court-decided cases, equitable distribution is based on a variety of factors. This includes not just the value of the assets themselves, but also which parties contributed what to the marriage, the changes or sacrifices a spouse might have made during the marriage to accommodate their spouse, the involvement of children, and many other variables. All of this makes the division of property quite complicated, and if you aren’t savvy during this period you could end up dissatisfied.
In general, the court assigns a monetary value to every marital asset and then distributes the assets according to that value, based on the positive and negative financial contributions of each party. In other words, if both spouses work but one earns more, the spouse with a lower income may be granted less of the marital assets since they “earned” less of them. However, they might also be given more in order to support themselves with a drastically lowered income. One spouse might also get a larger share of assets if they are taking sole custody of children or if the other spouse is found to meet one of the Fault Conditions for divorce.
If you want to make sure you’re getting your legitimate share of the marital assets in your divorce, the best way is to contact an experienced Oklahoma family lawyer like Bryan Stratton. Through his family law practice in Oklahoma City, Bryan has achieved positive outcomes for his clients time after time. Make sure your rights and assets are protected –call the law offices of Bryan Stratton today for a free consultation.