When you’re considering a divorce, it’s important to understand the family laws particular to your state. After all, issues like property division and child custody tend to vary from state to state. If you live in Oklahoma, for instance, the courts must distinguish between marital and separate property before they can be divided between you and your ex-spouse. You’ll want to understand the difference between the two types of property—and why it matters in your divorce.
You may wonder what will happen to your home, vehicles, furniture, bank accounts, and other assets following your divorce. The answer generally depends on who obtained those assets in the first place. Separate property refers to assets you acquired before marriage or after the divorce, meaning you own them independently of your spouse. It can also include property you received as a gift, or as part of an inheritance, during marriage. Besides those exceptions, most of the property you obtain during marriage is considered marital property.
Here are a few examples of separate property:
- The car you bought on your own before marriage.
- The silverware you inherited during marriage.
- The piece of furniture you bought during marriage using money you inherited.
- The money your parents sent to help you out after your divorce.
And here are a few examples of marital property:
- The home you and your spouse bought together while married.
- The cottage you bought on your own before marriage, with your spouse’s name added to its deed during marriage.
- The bank accounts you and your spouse opened together, and contributed to, while married.
- The credit cards you and your spouse got together, and paid off together, while married.
Why do these distinctions matter in the divorce? While they aren’t ironclad rules, they’ll inform the courts how to handle the property division process. When the family court has identified your marital and separate property, you will each receive whatever separate property rightfully belongs to you.
The court will then add up the value of your marital property and subtract the value of your shared debts. This is your net worth. According to Oklahoma law, the courts will follow a concept called “equitable division” to divide your net worth between the two of you. Rather than splitting the property 50/50, you will both receive whatever the judge deems to be fair and reasonable.
To come up with a fair division scheme, the judge may consider the following questions about each of you:
- Are you able to work? What is your job and income?
- Do you have a disability or illness?
- What is the extent of your debts?
- Will you be primarily caring for the children?
- Are you paying or receiving alimony?
- Did you do anything to increase or decrease the value of your marital property?
- Did you commit fraud against your spouse, or were you the victim of fraud?
Your personal conduct will not factor into the court’s decision, unless it somehow affected the value of your property. In addition, Oklahoma courts can’t take your financial need into account, nor can they consider who contributed more money when you initially bought the property together. It’s also important to understand that while you are entitled to your separate property, the courts can order you to pay separate property to your ex-spouse (as with child support and similar cases).
Are you concerned about what will happen to your property during divorce, or do you need additional legal guidance before you face the next steps? Bedlam Law can give you the best advice to help you claim what’s rightfully yours. Call our law office to speak with a team of specialized attorneys who will go above and beyond to ensure you understand every step of the divorce process.