Assets

Yours, mine and ours. That is, there are significant legal differences between non-marital and marital assets. Common examples of non-marital assets are those owned prior to the marriage, or those received by gift or inheritance during the marriage, and which consistently remain in the spouse's sole name. A marital asset is generally any other type of asset acquired during the marriage, even if the asset is in the name of one spouse (e.g. a pension or solely-owned checking account comprised of earnings from one spouse during the marriage). Non-marital assets remain the sole property of that spouse, while marital assets are divided in just proportions by the judge. Additionally, income or appreciation on non-marital assets remain non-marital. For example, if the Wife owns 100 shares of ABC stock worth $10,000.00 prior to the marriage, and during the marriage she keeps the stock in her sole name, she deposits dividends into a solely-owned checking account, and the stock splits and now there is 200 shares which are worth $42,000.00, then Wife will receive all 200 shares and the accumulated dividends if there is a divorce. If she deposited the dividends into a joint account, the dividends are probably marital.

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Assets Continued

Marital assets less marital debts is the "net marital estate", which is generally equally divided, but not always. The judge can make adjustments to a 50/50 division, depending on many factors (e.g. disparity in earnings, capacity, health, age, relative contributions made during the marriage, etc.).

The above illustration may be somewhat oversimplified, because sometimes the rules overlap. For example, assume the Husband brought into the marriage a home worth $150,000.00 with a $100,000.00 mortgage against it, and throughout the marriage he kept title in his own name, but by the time of the divorce the mortgage has been paid off (out of earnings of Wife and Husband) and is worth $300,000.00 in part due to extensive remodeling with which both spouses participated. Attributing the relative contributions of each spouse is sometimes a daunting task, and the failure to produce some of the paperwork to verify and trace those contributions may well result in differing proportionate allocations of the equity in the home between the spouses.

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