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When getting a divorce, one of the biggest questions for many couples surrounds who gets to keep what property – house, cars, retirement accounts, antiques and valuables. Depending on how and when the property was acquired, the distribution can be simple or it can require some negotiation.
There are two major types of property when it comes to a divorce: Marital and separate.
What Is Separate Property?
Separate property, also called non-marital property, is any property that is acquired outside of the marriage. This is most commonly used to describe assets that were owned by one party prior to the marriage, such as savings accounts or cars. Separate property also can mean property that was acquired during the marriage but is the sole property of one spouse, such as an inheritance or gift.
This is often the easiest property to determine ownership of, as it can usually be traced to one spouse or the other prior to the marriage. However, separate property can become marital property if the non-owning spouse contributed significantly to the upkeep or appreciation of the property (such as helping pay to fix up a house or working at a business started prior to the marriage). In these cases, a judge may determine the value of the non-owning spouse’s contribution and include that in any calculations over marital property.
What Is Marital Property?
Marital property is anything that was acquired by the couple during the marriage. This includes houses and cars, retirement and other financial accounts, antiques and collectibles, interests or ownership in businesses, and even gifts given to the couple.
This category of property is often more difficult to divide, as some couples both want certain assets. In many cases, assets are “traded” to make the division as equitable as possible. For example, if both spouses want to keep the house, one spouse can “trade” ownership of a 401K policy in a relatively equal amount to half the value of the home in lieu of selling the house and splitting the costs or buying the other spouse out of his share.
How Is Property Divided in Washington, D.C.?
Washington, D.C., is an equitable property jurisdiction. This means that property isn’t necessarily split 100% down the middle, and is instead divided based on a variety of factors. Some factors a judge can consider in dividing marital property equitably include:
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age, health, occupation, and employability of each party.
- What’s best for the care of the children.
- Contributions of a homemaker or caretaker.
- Contribution to the other spouse’s education or earning ability.
Because of all these considerations, one spouse may receive a larger share of the marital property than another. All non-marital property will remain with the person who owned it before the marriage.
How Are Valuations Determined?
Sometimes, determining the value of an asset is easy, such as writing down the exact balance in a bank account. Other times, such as for property, the couple or the court has to decide its worth.
If you and your spouse can agree on the value of certain property, either on your own or with the help of appraisers, then the court will use your calculations in dividing property. Otherwise, the judge determines the value of your property before making a decision on how things will be divided.
Skilled Divorce Attorney in Washington, D.C.
At Lopez Law Firm, we know that divorce can be one of the most difficult times in your life. There’s a great deal of uncertainty, emotion, and pain. Our skilled team can guide you through the process of divorce in Washington, D.C., working alongside you to get the results you and your family deserve. Schedule your consultation today!