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Property division: Who gets what after a divorce?

Though couples generally do not enter into marriage thinking that they will get divorced, that is sometimes the outcome. A couple can arrive at the decision to end their marriage for many reasons. But when that happens, a couple is faced with the task of dividing up the property.

The process of property division can be complicated and frustrating, especially when a divorce is already emotionally charged. There are so many things to consider such as property each spouse had before the marriage, income and property they acquired during the marriage, and business ownership.

For some couples, deciding how the property will be distributed upon divorce is done ahead of time, usually through a prenuptial agreement. This agreement dictates exactly who gets what if the couple should divorce. It can make the process of property division a bit simpler.

However, couples do not always have a prenuptial agreement. States can vary in how marital assets should be split; in Tennessee, courts follow an “equitable distribution” system that considers factors such as income when dividing the property.

Generally speaking in the event of a divorce:

  • Property brought into the marriage stays that spouse’s property if it is kept in that spouse’s name
  • Property that may have increased in value, such as land ownership or a business, may be split between the two, especially if both contributed to its growth
  • Debt incurred before the marriage does not fall on the other spouse
  • However, a spouse may be responsible for the other’s debt incurred during marriage

Diving up property after a divorce is neither simple nor enjoyable. It can be a challenge to navigate through many of the legal concerns that come with a divorce. But despite the complexities of divorce and property division, knowing potential solutions can help.

Source: The Times Herald online, “Love vs. debt: how a spouse’s finances affect you,” The Associated Press, 11 February 2011


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