"Equitable Distribution" refers to the process of dividing marital property - real and personal, in the context of a divorce. "Equitable" does not mean "Equal," however this is the typical starting place for negotiations.
Marital Property can include any of the following:
The marital home or any other real estate
Items in the marital home
Any property acquired after the date of marriage is presumed to be marital property and any property either spouse acquired before the date of marriage is presumed to be separate property. It is important to note that some property can still be acquired after the date of marriage but remain separate, this includes inheritance and gifts (other than those received from your spouse.)
On one hand, this is a very clear division. On the other, it is often difficult to untangle - particularly when most couples today start merging their lives prior to marriage.
Consider the following scenarios:
A couple purchases their first home together. The deed and mortgage are only in Husband's name. They marry a year later and 15 years after that, Wife files for divorce. Does 100% of the home's equity belong to Husband? Would the outcome change if the down payment on the home had come from wife's earnings?
A couple purchases a home, titled only in Wife's name. They marry 10 years later and within a year Husband files for divorce. The home was purchased as a renovation project and Husband did a substantial amount of the work himself and frequently contributed his own capital. A decade later, the house is worth three times as much. How should the equity be divided?
These are just two examples of how equitable distribution can quickly become messy. Both examples concern property that is presumed to belong to the titled spouse, unless argued otherwise. Hiring a skilled negotiator can ensure that the right arguments are made and the results are just.
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