The Basics of Property Division in an Equitable Distribution State
In most states, a practice known as “equitable distribution” is followed, meaning that the court attempts to distribute the property in a manner that is “fair and just”. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the property is distributed evenly, only that it is done in a way that is fair.
To do this, the court will consider a variety of factors, including the parties’ income, contributions to the marriage, the standard of living and even the potential for future income after the divorce is final.
Equitable distribution is designed to provide for the needs of both spouses as much as possible without worrying about splitting the property down the middle. But because there are so many variables, there is no set rule as to how your property might be divided.
When children are involved for example, the marital home is often awarded to the custodial spouse. In a community property state, this type of asset would likely be sold and the proceeds split evenly between the two parties. If the house were awarded to the custodial spouse, the non-custodial spouse would then likely receive other property and assets of a value equal to the home. Not so in equitable distribution.
Using this method of property distribution, the parties may or may not receive an equal share of the marital property. Rather than focusing on a half and half distribution, equitable distribution seeks to prevent either party from financial disaster after the divorce.
So, if one party makes considerably more than the other, the court would likely try to protect the lesser-earning spouse by awarding a larger portion of property and/or spousal support, believing that the wealthier spouse will have an easier time adjusting to a self-sufficient lifestyle than their lesser-earning counterpart.
And remember, many equitable distribution states also consider fault when determining how the property should be divided. To learn more about property division and the general divorce process, be sure to check the laws of your state .