Divorce often looks like a series of complicated issues, like child custody and property division, revolving around the already complex matter of a breakup between two partners. Unfamiliar legal concepts can add to that confusion, making it difficult to envision the next steps on your road to a finalized divorce.
Let’s start by clearing up the concept of marital property division in the state of Arkansas. Each state handles it differently, but Arkansas divorce law follows a concept called “equitable division.” The definition of that term varies, but here it means the division of property is usually equal — in other words, a 50/50 split.
But, as you have probably guessed, it’s not exactly that simple.
When a judge has reason to believe that an equal division would be unfair, they can divide your property in a different proportion based on a number of factors.
Here’s what they consider for each spouse if you are seeking an inequitable distribution of marital property:
- The length of the marriage.
- Your age, health, and station in life.
- Your occupation.
- The amount and sources of your income.
- Your vocational skills.
- Your employability.
- Your estate, liabilities, and needs, as well as your opportunities to acquire more capital assets and income.
- Your contribution to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of marital property (which can include homemaking).
- The federal income tax consequences of the property division.
If inequitable (or unequal) division is necessary, the court must state its basis for making that decision and recite the reasons in order.
Not all types of property are subject to equitable division, though. Only marital property, or assets and debts you acquired together during marriage, can be divided that way.
Your separate property is yours to keep — that is, any property you owned before marriage or received as a gift or an inheritance. It also includes items you bought and earnings you made on separate property; any increase in the value of your separate property; and disability benefits or funds you get from a personal injury claim.
Once the court decides what qualifies as marital property and what qualifies as separate, the court will assign a monetary value to each asset and debt. That’s when the actual division process starts.
If you don’t want to leave the division of your property up to a court of law, there is always the possibility of coming to an agreement with your spouse. If you can both agree on how to divide everything — which involves assessing the value of your property yourselves or with the help of a professional appraiser — you may be able to sidestep a big chunk of the court process.
Many couples find it difficult to agree on the division of marital property themselves, which is why it’s critical to have a competent lawyer by your side. The attorneys at the OMG Law Firm will always advocate tenaciously on your behalf and argue for your best interests. Give our law firm a call to speak with an attentive, experienced team of lawyers. You’ll be in good hands.