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The property division conundrum

Property division is a very delicate matter in divorce. Some states follow community property laws, which divide property into two categories (community and separate property). Other states, such as Ohio, follow equitable distribution. This way of dealing with property division says that a judge decides what is "equitable" for the splitting couples. Note that this doesn't mean "equal" or "fair." One spouse may get far more assets and/or property than the other spouse simply because the judge finds it to be "equitable."

So what does "splitting" property mean? Well, it's not meant to be taken literally. Splitting the property usually means that a judge totals up the value of the couple's property and then gives each person a percentage. This doesn't mean the split will be even.

Still, the matter of deciding which piece of property or asset belongs in which category of property (community, separate, or commingled) is complex.

Community property is usually referred to as "marital assets." These are pieces of property or debts the two spouses accumulate together, though a prenuptial agreement could create different rules in this regard. Separate property is just that: property tied to just one of the two spouse. Commingled property is very closely associated with community property (and is often designated as such), but these assets are purchased jointly by the spouses.

As you can tell, there's a lot of overlap in these categories. It behooves anyone who is going through a divorce -- or is preparing for one down the line -- to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer to understand how property division will impact them.

Source: FindLaw, "Divorce Property Division FAQ," Accessed July 27, 2015

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