Each state has its own set of laws addressing how property is to be divided incident to divorce. Arkansas is an equitable distribution state meaning that, in a dissolution of marriage, marital property will be divided in a manner that is equitable, or fair. While state law asserts that equitable generally means that marital property will be equally divided, that is not necessarily always going to be the case. A judge who feels that an equal division would be unfair after considering a variety of factors may deviate from an equal split of the marital assets.
Property Division in a Divorce
It is first important to note that parties to a divorce do have the ability to divide marital property as they see fit by signing a Marital Separation Agreement. This is also known as a Property Settlement Agreement and it must be approved by a judge. In many cases, however, divorcing parties are unable to reach an agreement on how to divide the marital assets and, thus, require judicial intervention.
Arkansas judges are tasked with first determining which property is considered marital and which is considered separate. Marital property will be subject to equitable division while separate property will remain in possession of the spouse who owns it. Through the discovery process, each party must provide the court with relevant information regarding property and assets. The judge will then decide what property is marital and what is separate.
Separate, or non-marital property, is usually property acquired prior to marriage. Property may also be considered separate even if it was acquired during the marriage, but this is generally the exception to the rule. For instance, if items were bought or exchanged with separate property, they will usually still be considered separate property. Inheritances and gifts received during the marriage are also generally considered to remain separate property as are proceeds from a workers’ compensation claim or certain proceeds from a personal injury claim.
Once the property has been categorized as marital or separate, the court will begin the task of dividing the marital assets. In order to accomplish an equitable, or fair, division of the assets, a judge will take a number of factors into considerations. These factors include:
- The length of the marriage
- The occupation of each spouse
- The employment skills of each spouse
- The employability of each spouse
- The mental and physical health of each spouse
- The age and stage in life of each spouse
- The amount and sources of income of each spouse
- The division of the marital debt
- The contribution of each spouse in acquiring and preserving marital property
- The federal income tax consequences of the property division
After weighing these factors, as well as other factors found to be relevant in seeing to an equitable division, a judge will render a decision as to how the marital property will be divided.
The Law Offices of Bryce Cook is committed to protecting and advocating for the best interests of our clients. The division of marital assets and debts in a divorce can have a profound impact on a person’s stability and financial future. We are here to zealously represent your best interests. Contact the Law Offices of Bryce Cook today.