How to Divorce – Property Settlements
The Divorce Plan
In most divorce cases, property division is the most significant issue that people have to deal with. While spousal support may be an issue for some people it is usually the division of property acquired during the marriage that is most important.
What is necessary for your attorney to properly handle the issue of marital property?
Real estate and personal property can often require appraisals for setting the value. Expert opinions may be needed as well. Pensions, 401(k) plans, profit sharing plans and other deferred compensation programs may require an expert opinion such a CPA or other financial advisor. The valuation of partnership, or corporation will often require a business appraisal. Valuations of stock or stock options may require financial advisors opinion.
In order to properly represent you we need to understand just what is the property to be divided – and the value of the marital property. Toward that end, you will need to make a complete list of everything that you have accumulated during your marriage. We will need to determine what is its value and how to divide it. Every state has a different approach to what is to be included for division, but I have found in my practice that most judges will divide the property according to a 50-50 rule. That means that the property will be divided equally unless there's a real good reason for it to be otherwise. While this might seem unreasonable remember that you get away with 50% as well. Tracing your contribution or your spouse's contribution to the asset in question is also important. If you contributed more to the value of the asset than your spouse this makes an important argument which must be presented.
The most critical step in your divorce may be determining the valuation of your property. Once an asset has been divided, proper evaluation should be undertaken and documentary proof obtained. As mentioned above this begins with you making a complete list of marital assets and identifying those for which values must be established. Likewise, a brief description of the asset and its estimated value must be determined, further we must know if there is any debt against the asset. You might want to pencil in any possible proposed division as well.
A list of assets may be prepared on a spreadsheet on your computer for easy modification in calculation. In any event ask us for the forms we would like to use in dealing with this important list. It will make it easy for you to do this important task and make it easy for the judge to understand what is at stake.
Many assets such as automobiles can be efficiently and effectively valued through online databases. In Alabama the owner can testify to the value of his own automobile. Likewise, what is owed on the automobile may be obtained from your lender. Many times individuals in the pursuit of obtaining loans will set forth financial statements showing what they own and the amount of debt they carry. Do not forget financial statements which you or your spouse may have prepared for the local Bank. These are important sources of information.
Furniture and fixtures, should be set out with particularity. You can't get it if you don't list it in a summary fashion so that the court can readily determine what is to be divided.
Every divorce to some extent is about dividing the "pots and pans", yet there is a lot that will have to be replaced if nothing is awarded to you. Fighting over the "toaster" is not economic, but while judges do not want to waste a lot of time talking about "pots and pans" I assure you they can be divided easily – given enough time and attention by your attorney.
As our nation becomes older the possibility of retirement accounts and future support is keenly felt. In appropriate cases, the courts will entertain a "Qualified Domestic Relations Order" or sometimes called a "Quattro"in order to divide a portion of retirement account between the parties.
All decisions regarding your property interest must be fully discussed with your attorney. There is only one time to inform the court and your attorney should be keenly aware of what is required.
REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT ALONE!