Divorce is one of the most stressful events of someone’s life. There are so many things to consider during the process. Finding an attorney, and things like child custody, alimony, and child support make things even more complicated. You may feel stressed and emotionally drained, leaving you in a vulnerable state where you can make mistakes just trying to get things over and done quickly.
One crucial part of your divorce to consider is the division of property. In Tennessee, you need to know what property is deemed to be marital property and how to divide it between you and your spouse. In an amicable divorce, property, assets, and debt are distributed equally between each party. If you can’t reach an agreement, a judge decides what property each of you receives based on several factors.
What Is Considered Marital Property?
In Tennessee, marital property is considered any assets or property acquired during the course of your marriage. This property can be acquired by either of you and is considered community property.
Marital property can include:
- Houses, vacation properties, or any other home structure
- Any retirement accounts, pensions, and Social Security
- Bank accounts and cash on hand on the effective date of the division
- Any stocks or investment accounts
- Businesses owned by either of you
Any property determined as marital property is subject to division during a divorce. When a judge is needed to determine the division, they will determine an equitable distribution. Equitable is defined as fair, reasonable, and just, but it doesn’t mean equal. The judge can order your spouse a larger share if the evidence suggests that it is a fair distribution of your assets. The judge will come to this decision based on the following factors:
- How long you were married
- You and your spouse’s age
- The physical and mental health of you and your spouse
- If either of you has vocational skills, earning capacity, and are employable
- Any contributions to the education, training, or increased earning power to each other
- The value of assets you or your spouse had before the marriage
- The value of your combined estate at the time of marriage
- Any retirement benefits, pensions, stocks, retirement plans, and Social Security benefits
- The amounts an employer pays you or your spouse at the time of the property division
How Do I Protect Myself And My Assets?
You might want to ensure that anything that was yours before the marriage or any gifts or inheritances received during the marriage remains yours after the divorce. Once the divorce is in motion, it’s essential to protect your assets to ensure your future financial well-being.
1. Prioritize Your Assets
During a divorce, you are required to disclose all assets – houses, retirement funds, bank accounts, and any other property that has a monetary value. If you attempt to hide assets by giving them away to a friend or a relative until the divorce is over, you’ll face additional and costly legal problems. Be prepared before you head to mediation or court and determine which assets are most important to you and that you want to keep, and let your lawyer know so they can plan accordingly.
2. Real Estate Division
One of the biggest concerns in a divorce is how to determine who will get the house and any other properties acquired during the marriage. When you have multiple properties, the division is more complicated than if you own a single home. Both of you are entitled to any property bought and used during your marriage.
Sometimes the best option is for one party to “buy out” the other. However, if you own rental properties or other commercial properties, they need to be handled as a business. Businesses are subject to division and can be complex to determine who gets what and how.
3. Division of Debt
In Tennessee, courts handle marital debt by considering them the shared responsibility of both parties. However, the court often shifts responsibilities between spouses. When this happens, the court determines these obligations on the following factors:
- Purpose of the debt – If the debt was incurred to support the family or household are likely to be divided more evenly
- If the debt was incurred by one spouse or by both spouses jointly
- Which spouse benefited from the debt
- The financial ability of you or your spouse to pay the debt and which one of you is in the best financial position to pay it off
- If the debt is attached to a specific asset like a car or a house, and which spouse obtained the asset during distribution
- Possible fraud or infidelity by a spouse
Any debts in both of your names are often divided between both of you. Even if the debt is in only one spouse’s name, it can be divided between you both if it is found that the debt was incurred to benefit both of you, your family, or your household. For example, if a credit card in one spouse’s name is used to purchase groceries. This debt can be divided between both spouses.
Some debts can be divided if they appear to be the responsibility of one spouse. For example, if your spouse goes back to school and takes out student loans, the court can decide if the loan balance is divided between you both if the other spouse benefitted from the financial gains resulting from the education.
You Can Rely On Divorce Attorney Hunter Fowler
Divorces get messy. You need an experienced divorce attorney who is an expert in family law—someone who will help you set realistic goals—someone that you trust.Whether you’re filing for divorce or have been served divorce papers, you may feel like your world has come crashing down around you. It’s a very vulnerable and confusing place to be in, which is why you need the best legal counsel possible to navigate all the ins and outs of divorce law.
Attorney Hunter Fowler has provided legal services to many individuals in your exact situation and will work with you through every detail of your divorce proceedings to ensure the final outcome is what you want for yourself and your family. Contact Hunter Fowler today to get the legal counsel you deserve.