Utah is among the majority of U.S. states that abide by equitable distribution to divide marital property in a divorce. Property division can become a hot-button issue in any divorce, and things only get more complicated when spouses have misconceptions about how it all should work.
Unless someone has gone through a divorce before, chances are they may not know just how complex property division can be and what happens during this process. Our goal here will be to dispel some common myths about equitable distribution to help set the record straight.
Myth 1: Marital Property Is Split 50/50
The first myth people have about equitable distribution is incredibly widespread. When it comes to property division under equitable distribution, each spouse with what the court determines to be their fair share of the marital property. Unlike states that observe community property, the property division in an equitable distribution doesn’t have to be even – and often isn’t.
The reason is that the court may provide more marital property to the spouse with the lesser earning capacity or less separate property to help them maintain the standard of living to which they grew accustomed during their marriage.
Myth 2: Cheating Means the Non-Cheating Spouse Gets More Money
A spouse’s infidelity often has no bearing on how much property the other spouse gets. An exception to this may be if the cheating spouse used marital assets for expensive meals, trips, and gifts that were associated with their infidelity.
The court might determine that because the spouse used this money for his or her own personal gain, then it should be counted among their allotted portion of marital property. This can give the appearance that the court is “punishing” infidelity, but that’s simply not what’s going on.
Myth 3: Retirement Accounts Are Safe From Consideration
Retirement accounts are counted among marital property when the money funded into it, or was generated, was gained during the marriage.
Myth 4: Only Those Who Created Debt Are Responsible for It
If your spouse was irresponsible with his or her spending, it might be comforting to believe they – and only they – will be responsible for the consequences. Unfortunately, just like any assets, any debts incurred during a marriage are counted among marital property and shared between both spouses.
A judge can order an unequal responsibility for marital debts, which can either positively or negatively impact the spouse who wasn’t responsible for the spending. In particularly egregious cases, such as when one spouse’s spending was intended to financially harm the other spouse during divorce, then a judge may order all or a greater share of the debt responsibility to the former party.
Myth 5: Businesses Created before Marriage Are Separate Property
Although most separate property that was acquired before marriage is off-limits for property distribution, such may not be the case for businesses. Because a previously established business had value and generated income during a marriage that occurred later, it can be considered a marital asset. A complex analysis will take place to determine how much of a business’s value should be considered marital property and subject to distribution.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
If you are involved in a divorce or property distribution dispute, we at Nelson, Taylor & Associates PLLC can provide the legal representation you need to achieve your goals or the best possible outcome. For more information about what we can do for you, schedule a consultation with us today!