There are a lot of messy parts when it comes to a divorce. You and your partner will have a lot of difficult conversations about how to move forward. One of these conversations will ultimately be about your finances and what you’ll do with the things you own. During any divorce the couple needs to find a way to divide the assets, preferably in a peaceful way. Below are the steps you can follow if you’d like to divide your assets in a peaceable way.
Start the Conversation
The first thing to do is simple start the conversation. Find a time when you are both free and have ample time for a long discussion. You have a lot of other things to talk about, but agree that this time should be set aside just to talk about your assets. You don’t need to figure out every single detail during this initial conversation, but you at least need to get the conversation started. For your part, do your best to remain calm during the discussion, as the tone you set now will likely carry forward into all other future discussions.
Know the Laws in Your State
Next, it’s important that you know what the laws are in your state. Every state handles the division of assets in one of two ways: community property or equitable distribution. In a community property state, everything you own will either be identified as community property, meaning it belongs to both you and your spouse, or individual property, meaning it is solely yours. In these states, community property will get divided equally among the partners, and you get to keep anything classified as individual property.
Most states, however, follow what is called equitable distribution. In this setup, all property and assets accumulated during the marriage will be split fairly (but not necessarily evenly) among the two parties. The state may also determine that one spouse is due a percentage of a property’s value.
It’s best to know how the laws in your state work before you get too far along in your conversations. This way both you and your partner know what is expected in your state.
It’s important that you remain flexible during these discussions. Remember that this division is supposed to be fair to both sides. So while you may not want to give up a few things, your partner is likely thinking the same thing. If you are too rigid with what you are asking for, it will only delay the divorce process and force your spouse to become more rigid as well. Do your best to remain flexible throughout and remember that there are more important things than money.
Get Everything in Writing
You’ll likely have multiple conversations with your spouse about the division of assets. It’s a good idea to take notes during these meetings and get everything in writing. That way, when you start a new conversation, you can pick up where you last left off. It will also help if your partner denies agreeing to something they said in a previous conversation.
Don’t Forget Your Debts
When dividing assets, many couples focus on the things they own, such as homes and cars. However, a big part of your assets is your debts. According to Jacobson, Julius & Harshberger, an experienced divorce attorney in Harrisburg PA, “Debts that benefited a couple’s household such as credit cards, mortgages and auto loans may require negotiation.”.
You’ll want to remember these debts when negotiating. For example, if one party gives up the car, they could give up a percentage of your combined credit card debt in exchange. Include debt in your discussions from the beginning, rather than trying to figure it out at the end. Neither of you wants to be saddled with the entire debt, so you need to make figuring it out a priority.
Work with Outside Help
In many cases, you won’t be able to equitably divide your assets on your own. There are too many negative emotions involved and the situation can grow tense. If this happens, look for outside help. There are mediators whose job it is to divide assets for couples going through a divorce. Your divorce lawyer can likely recommend someone if you need suggestions. Just keep in mind, if you are unable to reach an agreement with your spouse on your own, you may not like the ruling the mediator comes to.
Keep the Larger Goal in Mind
Finally, keep the larger goal in mind, which is to complete the divorce process. The last thing you want is to get stuck negotiating over a small amount of debt, dragging the divorce proceedings on for several more weeks. Remember that the purpose of dividing assets is so that you can both get a fresh start and move on. Keeping this mind when you negotiate will help to move the proceedings along much quicker.