Divorce is a difficult time, and division during a divorce can be particularly difficult. Assets held by both parties must be counted and categorized to reasonably separate the accumulated property. In most states, Oklahoma included, the model for property division is called equitable distribution.
Equitable distribution means the marital property must be divided in a “fair and equitable way.” This does not necessarily imply a 50/50 split. Rather, assets are traded, bargained for, or sold off until each spouse has received a fair share. No two divorce settlements will be exactly the same because no two marriages are the same. That is why it’s essential to have an experienced family attorney on your side, as well as a bit of knowledge about the process.
Marital property is defined as any currently owned asset acquired during the marriage. This includes tangible assets like homes, cars, and jewelry. It also includes more complicated and intangible assets like bank accounts, retirement plans, income from a family business, and interest earned from stocks and bonds.
Any asset not fitting into the marital property classification is considered separate property. Assets that were owned prior to the marriage remain the property of the individual and are not subject to equitable distribution. Separate property also includes gifts or inheritance from a third party to one individual (but not both).
Some assets, like the marital home, cannot be divided. So if one spouse has a vested interest in keeping it, they will often give up other assets from their shared or separate property. In this way, the spouse who wants the house gets to keep it, and the spouse giving up the house is compensated for their share. This is called a distributive award, and it is a very common aspect of equitable distribution.
How Are Assets Divided?
The court will make decisions about the division of property based on the following factors:
- The length of the marriage
- The debts and assets of both spouses
- The custody agreement of any children involved
- The cost of sale and tax consequences of any property that must be sold to divide the property equitably
- The retirement benefits of each spouse
For a more specific idea of how your assets will be divided, call Outhier & Caruthers, PLLC, at (580) 234-6600.