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How do Tennessee's equitable property division rules work?

Statistical data from across the United States indicate that about half of all marriages end in divorce. The end of a marriage changes everything for the family involved. For couples with children, child custody can become a major battle of wills, but often the most conflict occurs around financial issues such as alimony, child support and property and asset division.

Of all financial issues, property division is often the biggest problem, party because of the complexity of state laws that govern division. State laws can be very similar from state to state, but division procedures are governed by two basic concepts: community property or, as in the case of Tennessee, equitable distribution.

In community property states, marital property is divided between both parties evenly, or 50-50. Courts tend to assess and add up the values of all marital properties and then grant each spouse an equal portion of it.

The rules in equitable distribution states are not as simple. Equitable distribution of property does not necessarily mean an even split of assets and properties. Courts often use the concept of fairness and assess various factors such as the earning potentials of both spouses as well as who initially acquired a property and the length of the marriage. In fact, sometimes extensive lists of factors are used by courts to arrive at what they determine to be fair distributions of marital assets.

Most non-marital property is also usually exempt from property division; this type of property includes anything owned by one spouse before marriage and anything inherited during marriage. It is generally not subject to property division with a few exceptions. For example, if one spouse pays taxes or makes mortgage payments on real property inherited by the other, then the property may be considered marital property because of commingled assets.

Source: FindLaw.com, "FindLaw guide to divorce and property division," accessed on Jan. 2, 2015

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