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When a couple is undergoing a divorce, they will need to confront many issues of potential conflict, including child support and alimony, as well as child custody and visitation. One of the most difficult areas in a divorce can be how a couple divides the assets and estate of their marriage. In Ohio, there are rules that can shape the outcome of the division.

Equitable division is the rule when it comes to the distribution of marital property in Ohio. Our courts start with a presumption that equitable means equal. However, a judge can decide that an unequal division is “equitable” based on the facts of your case.

At the law firm of Sowald Sowald Anderson Hawley & Johnson in Columbus, Ohio, our lawyers will represent your property interests in divorce and ensure that you receive everything you are entitled to under Ohio law.

What Is Marital Property?

Marital property includes all assets and debts you accumulated during your marriage such as:

Often, simply dividing each individual asset and liability does not result in an outcome that protects the value of the assets or minimizes the impact of the liability. Through their experience and the use of experts, our lawyers can help you obtain a reasonable and logical distribution of assets and liabilities that maximizes the benefit to both parties.

Is It Marital Or Separate Property?

Not all property is necessarily divided during a division of assets. Property division typically only looks at marital assets and not separate property. It is possible a spouse could acquire property during the marriage that would still qualify as separate property. If a spouse gains money or property as a gift, through inheritance, or other methods of specifically designating just that person as the owner of an asset, the asset would likely qualify as separate property.

How Does A Court Divide Marital Assets?

When dividing an estate, a court looks at many different factors before making its decision. These factors look at many aspects of the couple’s life, including:

  • The duration of the marriage
  • The level in which either spouse wants to live in the home and if they will be raising their children in it
  • The financial desirability of keeping an asset intact
  • Any taxes that come from the asset division
  • The liabilities and assets each spouse has
  • Any voluntary division agreements
  • The value of any distributed property
  • The cost of the sale of any assets

If a court encounters other factors they may also consider relevant to the asset division, they may also consider them as well.

What About Gifts And Inheritances?

Gifts and inheritances, as well as assets owned prior to marriage, are not considered marital property in Ohio and typically remain the property of the recipient or owner. However, it is the responsibility of the party claiming the asset is nonmarital to adequately prove that the asset was a gift or an inheritance or was owned prior to marriage. You can read more about Inheritance and marital property in our blog post, “Is An Inheritance Marital Property?”.

The Importance Of Valuations

Before you can fairly divide your assets, you need to know how much your assets are worth. If you do not have an accurate valuation of your house, car or other major assets, you may find yourself giving up more than you needed to just to keep a specific asset. By getting a fair valuation before division negotiations, you can help avoid having major regrets about the results.

What To Know About Dividing Pensions And Retirement Accounts

Pensions and retirement accounts are subject to equitable division laws, as the state of Ohio considers them marital property. Defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s are easy to value. The value is the amount in the account at the date of division. Defined benefit plans like pensions are more difficult. If you wish to divide and cash out one of these accounts in your divorce, you may need to hire an outside expert to calculate its present value. If you wish to defer division to a future date, you simply divide the account equitably at some future date.

Proper Division Of Marital Debt In Divorce

Property division doesn’t involve just assets. In an equitable property state like Ohio, debts must also be divided. At Sowald Sowald Anderson Hawley & Johnson, we work just as hard to protect your interests on the debit side as we do with your positive accounts and properties.

The primary question is: Who does this debt belong to? The answer is: All debts acquired during the marriage (marital debts) belong equally to both parties. So, it is necessary to assess all debts to determine who took on the debt or who is receiving the assets for which the debt is owed.

Illustration: If a car is awarded to one side in the divorce, that party will be accountable for any money still owed on the vehicle.

Debts are to be distributed equally unless it can be shown that one side accumulated debt recklessly. Equitable distribution means property and debt may not simply be divided down the middle. The court will want to see that the division is just and that neither side is saddled with debt they are not able to pay.

Our lawyers have the skill and the assertive approach to argue your position on this division, ensuring that it is done properly and fairly.

Schedule A Marital Property Division Consultation With One Of Our Attorneys

Family law conducted respectfully – talk to the family lawyers at Sowald Sowald Anderson Hawley & Johnson of Columbus, Ohio. Contact us at 614-556-4231.