What Is Equitable Distribution in the Divorce Process?

Divorce Lawyer

When people get a divorce, dividing property is one of the most important things they must resolve. In general, it is advisable for spouses to try negotiating an agreement.

As divorce lawyers from a firm like the Law Office of Daniel J. Wright can explain, when people can come to an understanding that they both feel is acceptable, they will not be surprised with the outcome of their divorce – and they may gain a better sense of closure, too. Additionally, it can help avoid contention, making the divorce process a little less stressful while also facilitating better communication if people will be staying in contact with one another as friends or coparents.

If the two parties cannot reach a mutual agreement, a court will issue a ruling about how to divide property. Many states’ divorce laws have guidelines providing for the equitable distribution of marital assets. A judge or magistrate will apply the doctrine of equitable distribution in determining what property will receive when the divorce is final.

Equitable Distribution Defined

Divorce in states that follow the equitable distribution model does not involve a 50-50 split of everything that spouses own right down the middle. The goal of this model is not dividing property equitably in terms of evenness but rather equitably in terms of fairness. This legal analysis considers what type of division would yield the most just and reasonable outcome in light of each marriage’s individual circumstances.

Judges conduct an analysis of each situation with the objective of arriving at a result that would be appropriate for both parties. Courts attempt to avoid unjustly enriching one spouse while causing substantial hardship to another as they go their separate ways financially.

Factors Affecting What Is Equitable

Many different variables can impact what would produce an equitable outcome when dividing property. One of the most important factors that courts will consider is the length of a marriage. The longer people stay married, the more likely they are to become financially entwined. In contrast, people dissolving short marriages have had less time to become financially dependent on one another.

Judges may also give significant consideration to each spouse’s individual assets. In addition, they may evaluate spouses’ respective earning capacity.

It is important to note that only marital property and not all property owned by either spouse is subject to equitable distribution. The first step in the process of applying this doctrine is identifying what is marital property and what spouses own separately before making determinations about how to divide it.