The first question often asked to us when we consult with a potential divorcee is “Is my spouse entitled to X?” ‘X’ can stand for anything as large as a boat to as small as a collection of pens. For purposes of this article, let’s say ‘X’ is a boat. The first question we ask is “when did you purchase the boat?” If you purchased the boat prior to the marriage then there is a good chance you will be able to claim the boat free and clear from your spouse so long as significant marital funds were not used to maintain the boat. However, if you purchased the boat after the date of the marriage, then the likelihood is that the boat is subject to equitable distribution. Equitable distribution is best described as a fair and reasonable distribution that may be more than or less than fifty percent of any asset to either party.
Once you determine whether or not your ‘X’ is subject to equitable distribution, you can begin to explore different options that you may have. If your ‘X’ is subject to equitable distribution, and your ‘X’ is still a boat, three general options can help guide your decision making. The first is that you can buy out your spouse’s share in the boat and you can hold title to it free and clear. The second is that your spouse can buy you out of the boat and he or she can hold title to it free and clear. The third option is to sell the boat and split the proceeds accordingly.
Now let’s make your ‘X’ a collection of pens. If both parties feel they have a right to the pens, then the options are similar to as if ‘X’ was a boat, but there is a fourth option. Both parties can agree to split up the collection of pens and each walk away with some, but not all of the property.
Equitable distribution can be complicated but an experienced attorney can help provide you with the advice you need to ensure that you are receiving an equitable share of your property after a divorce.
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