Division of Property

Divorce lawyers in Washington DC and in surrounding states follow state provisioned guidelines that enforce “equitable distribution” of property in the case of divorce in these areas. This means that property is distributed fairly — not equally — as opposed to “community property” states, in which property is split right down the middle. The purpose of these proceedings, then, is to determine what is rightfully owed each spouse according to various factors, which include but are not limited to: each spouse’s contributions, expected financial situation following divorce, standard of living established during marriage, age and health (mentally and physically), income and earning potential, and needs of the custodial parent to care for any children involved.

Washington DC divorce lawyers, in an effort to mitigate financial and emotional strain, will aim to settle the divorce outside of court. In fact, ultimately 95% of divorce proceedings are settled this way. Yet, there are cases in which, despite best efforts, spouses cannot agree on what is fair and the case necessitates litigation. This is clearly not likely, however, and is a bridge we will cross should we come to it. Instead, let’s consider some issues we are almost certain to encounter.
First and foremost, property will be divided according to whether it is legally considered “separate property” or “marital property” before any decisions of disbursement can be made. Separate property typically falls under one of four categories: property owned by a spouse prior to marriage, property that was inherited, property acquired as a gift from a third party intended for only one spouse, and financial compensation for a personal injury suffered by one party. Any property not encompassed by these categories is considered marital — or shared — property. Keep in mind, too, that any property once considered separate property that has since been re-titled to include both spouses is also considered marital property.

During the course of these proceedings you will find that most property is regarded as marital property. This is important to remember because as experienced DC divorce lawyers we often note that this is met by incredulity. Pension plans, 401Ks, IRAs, bank accounts, stock options, professional practices, limited partnerships, art, tax refunds, and even country club memberships are normally considered marital property and are subject to allocation among both parties.

Even the increases in value of separate property that took place during the marriage are deemed marital property. This can mean either active or passive increases in value. Active increases are intended efforts to expand worth, such as the growth of a business. In allocating property such as these, two things are considered: direct and indirect spousal contributions. Direct contributions by the spouse that did not initially own this property encompass any effort made to directly increase worth, such as providing services to a spouse’s business. Indirect effort is any work a spouse contributed that allowed the other to expand the worth of that property, such as caring for children to allow more time for the other spouse to make direct contributions to that property.

Needless to say, there are many factors to take into account. As experienced divorce lawyers in Washington DC, we know everything necessary to assure that you acquire what is rightfully yours in these strenuous proceedings. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with top divorce lawyers in DC and secure your future at the termination of your marriage.