Setting property division priorities before you divorce is an important step in navigating the often complex and emotionally charged process of ending your marriage. Thoughtfully prioritizing your approach to the asset division process can help in achieving a fair and satisfactory division of your marital estate.
Before you start crafting your priorities, however, you’ll need to determine if any of the assets that you think of as jointly owned are technically separate property. Separate property is not subject to division in the event that you litigate your divorce, although you and your spouse can make virtually whatever arrangements you want if you can agree on your property division terms without judicial intervention. Most of the time, marital property includes assets and debts acquired during the marriage, whereas separate property refers to assets and debts owned by one spouse before the marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance.
Coming up with a list of your priorities
By focusing on what you really want, you’ll be less likely to make the kinds of missteps that can derail property division negotiations and/or litigation. You can start setting expectations by creating a comprehensive inventory of all your assets and debts. This list should include real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, valuable personal property (like jewelry and art), vehicles, particularly sentimental property and any debts like mortgages, loans and credit card balances. Having a clear picture of your financial situation can help you to craft informed priorities.
Next, you’ll want to think about your future financial needs. This includes your earning capacity, potential career changes, health considerations and retirement plans. Understanding your future financial landscape will help in prioritizing assets that support your long-term stability.
Finally, you’ll want to be realistic about what you can keep. The division of property often involves compromise. Be prepared to be flexible and understand that you might not be able to retain ownership of everything you want, and that nor is everything you want perhaps something that you’re financially and practically prepared to maintain.
Setting property division priorities pre-divorce requires a balance of emotional, financial and practical considerations. By taking a structured and informed approach, you can better ensure that your priorities align with your long-term well-being and goals, paving the way for a smoother transition into your post-divorce life.