One of the most difficult issues in a divorce is splitting assets into “his” and “hers.” Dividing real property (marital home), personal property (your stuff), vehicles and financial items are where most couples run into difficulty. Before a divorce can be granted, all marital assets must be distributed in a way that’s satisfactory to both parties.
Generally, Oklahoma statutes say that property must be divided "equitably." Equitably doesn't mean equally. However, if the issue goes to trial, courts often try to divide property equally.
If spouses can work together, they can often prevent the slow and expensive process of dividing assets in court. The parties can work this out with each other, if that is possible, or communicate and negotiate terms through their individual attorneys until they reach an agreement. In today’s blog, we’ll teach you how to divide the most common assets with the help of a divorce attorney.
The first step in this process is developing a comprehensive list of all the marital assets. Begin tallying items on your own and compare the two lists side by side. Here are some of the most common assets to get you started:
- Financials – Joint accounts, deferred compensation, retirement investments or life insurance.
- Property – A home, vacation rental, lake cabin or land.
- Vehicles – A car, boat, motorcycle, scooter or camper.
- Securities – Stocks, bonds, money market accounts and CDs.
- Collectibles – Antiques, coins, stamps, family heirlooms or a restored classic vehicle.
- Household items – Furniture, appliances, electronics, etc.
Deciding which spouse will keep the home is often the first and most difficult issue. If you have children, judges will often award the home to the parent with primary custody as long as they can afford it. Whoever is awarded the house often will have the other spousal execute a quit claim deed so that they are sole owner. Additionally, whoever gets the house will likely need to refinance the home so that the other spouse gets their portion of the equity in the house and so that their name is taking off the home loan.
Vehicles are another common item of dispute. And contrary to belief, vehicles and other property aren’t necessarily granted to the spouse who holds the sole title. As long as the vehicle was purchased during the marriage it is marital property and will be divided based on who needs it or usually drives it.
When dividing up the vehicles, it’s important to know each car’s individual value. You can find this information using Kelley Blue Book or by visiting reputable dealers in your area.
As far as collectibles and household items go, they should ideally be split in agreement between spouses since they best understand the sentimental and actual value. Sometimes debate may arise over an antique or valuable collectible. However, it’s best for the interest of both spouses to determine the division without outside intervention. If it comes down to it, you can work closely with your divorce attorney to develop sound arguments for retaining specific items.
What To Consider When Dividing Financial Assets
Each spouse will need a complete set of financial documents. Your divorce attorney will require a set, but ensure you have copies for yourself located in a safe place. Before beginning the divorce process, it may be advisable to freeze or close joint accounts and establish new ones under individual names.
If you choose to maintain a joint bank account or credit card, obtain written agreement regarding the purpose of the accounts and what the funds will be used for. However, keep in mind that if accounts aren’t separated prior to the divorce, it’s imperative neither spouse is accumulating debt or using assets without the knowledge of the other.
Working with a Divorce Attorney is the #1 Way to Ensure Fair Distribution
Dividing assets in a way that suits both spouses makes for a faster, more streamlined divorce process. Having open communication is also a necessity for couples with shared custody. The key to minimizing stress in this area is the willingness to be fair. Although some of your assets may not survive the divorce, that doesn’t mean they have to disappear necessarily. In fact, the better you can work with your ex, the more flexibility you can retain during and after the divorce.
If you’re beginning the process of what you believe will be an uncontested divorce, our trusted team at Ball, Morse, Lowe PLLC can help. We’ll help prepare the complicated legal paperwork for you so you can focus on what’s important – moving forward. If you have any questions about divorce or would like to learn next steps, we encourage you to reach out to us today at (405) 701-6376.
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