Divorce and Property Division: Assets Divided in Divorce
Prenuptial agreements and premarital property issues aside, most couples have items of value that must be divided as part of the divorce. These assets can include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Vacation properties
- Rental properties
- Other income producing properties
- Gun collections
- Stamp collections
- Retirement accounts
- Brokerage accounts
Divorce and Property Division: Equitable Distribution as Opposed to Equal Distribution
The law does not require equal distribution of assets in the divorce. Instead, the law calls for an equitable distribution of the assets. In some cases, “equitable” and “equal” turn out to be pretty much the same thing. In other divorce cases, however, the division of property is not equal. It is important that when people divorce, they approach the division of assets with this understanding of the law.
Divorce and Property Division: Some Assets Come with Costs
When dividing assets, one must consider more than just their present-day value. Some assets come with costs. It is a mistake to ignore this fact. Consider, for example, two “equal value” assets: a home with $500,000 in equity, and a savings account with $500,000 in it. While both assets may be worth $500,000, a home requires upkeep. This includes home owner’s insurance, maintenance, routine repairs, and, sometimes, non-routine repairs, such as replacing a roof. Similarly, timeshare units have annual costs, country club memberships have minimum spending limits, boats often come with mandatory slip rental, and the list goes on.
Divorce and Property Division: Some Assets Come with Emotional Significance
One of the challenges of divorcing is letting go of the past. Some assets have significant emotional significance to one or both parties. This can cloud judgment and lead to rash decision making. A family law attorney approaches their client’s divorce without assigning the same emotional significance to property. They can advise their clients about the pros and cons of retaining an emotionally significant asset. In some cases, it is a good idea to hire an expert to determine the actual value of an asset. This is particularly true when one or both parties assign more emotional value to the item than its actual financial worth.
Divorce and Property Division: The Importance of Determining Accurate Valuation
Initially, some couples believe they are perfectly capable of determining the value of their assets on their own. Sometimes, parties express concern about the cost of hiring an expert to determine the valuation of assets. However, in the long run, it is often best to hire an expert, or several qualified experts, to assess the value of various assets. When the parties are clear about the value of their assets, they are better able to engage in discussions about how the assets will be divided in an equitable manner.
Divorce and Property Division: Keep Your Post Divorce Budget in Mind
When dividing assets, it is important to bear in mind your post-divorce budget. Will you be able to maintain the asset on your own? Will you be able to enjoy it? For example, does it make sense to fight for the vacation condo in Florida if you can’t afford to fly there regularly to enjoy it? Will you have a house large enough to accommodate the toy train collection? When making decisions about which items of property you want, and which items you consider negotiable or undesirable, keep your budget and future lifestyle in mind.
Divorce and Property Division: Who Gets the Pet?
Maryland has not yet joined the ranks of California and Alaska in permitting an evaluation of which party can give a pet the best home. Instead, in Maryland, Fido and Fluffy are just considered property. As such, they, too, are subject to property division. Some couples find a joint pet custody arrangement works for them, while others find a division of the pets and a clean break is the best approach. There is no “right way” to determine who gets the pets.
Divorce and Property Division: Consider the Value of the Asset and the Cost of the Fight
Sometimes people who are divorcing are not their best versions of themselves. Consequently, they may find themselves fighting over the hallway mirror, the 5 year old car, or the vacation timeshare. All too often, people let their emotions get the better of them. Soon they find they have spent more on attorney’s fees fighting about an item than the item is actually worth.
If you are considering a divorce, contact Fait & DiLima. We focus exclusively on family law issues. Our attorneys, paralegals, and case managers can assist you each step of the way, from initial decision making about property division to drafting the final divorce decree. We are skilled in mediation, negotiation, the collaborative divorce process and, where it is necessary, litigation. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call the office today to set up a consultation to discuss the facts and circumstances of your case at (301) 251-0100.