What is Equitable Distribution?
One of the most difficult aspects of divorce is determining equitable distribution of marital assets. Equitable distribution can be confusing for many, as it does not mean “equal” division, but “fair” division. In most cases, there is not a strict fifty-fifty split in which each party receives exactly half of the property that was acquired during the marriage. Instead, the law requires that the future financial situation of each spouse is considered.
Equitable distribution is a flexible system, but it’s complicated nature also makes it difficult to predict the actual outcome of the distribution. If you are going through a divorce or considering filing for divorce and own property together it would be in your best interest to retain an attorney who will be able to guide you through the entire divorce process, ensuring your marital assets and marital debts are distributed fairly.
The lawyer’s goal should be to help you achieve a fair distribution of property, investments, and retirement benefits.
Factors Considered in Equitable Distribution
It is important to note that neither fault nor marital misconduct are taken into consideration during equitable distribution. As mentioned, the court will not necessarily divide marital property fifty-fifty, but instead use a number of factors to determine what is fair. Some of these factors may include:
- Non-marital property or assets
- Earning power of each spouse
- Who maintained or acquired the property (this is important in terms of a family business, in particular)
- Length of marriage
- Previous marriages
- Health of both parties
- Age of both spouses
- Income of both parties
- Employability of both parties
- Prenuptial agreements
- Who will have custody of children (when applicable)
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Tax implications
It should also be noted that the court may use equitable distribution to penalize a spouse if he or she did not properly care for marital property, either during the marriage or once separated. Equitable distribution laws only apply in court, which means that the spouses are given a chance to work out property distribution on their own or through an attorney before the court is involved. If the spouses cannot agree on how to divide the properties on their own, a judge will make that decision for them.
Family law attorneys from Atkins & Markoff are experienced in equitable distribution and can help with many different types of complex property division issues. To learn more about equitable distribution or to set up a consultation with one of our Oklahoma lawyers today, please give us a call.