Dividing the marital estate, particularly after a lengthy marriage, can be easy, complicated, or somewhere in between, depending on each client’s particular circumstances. In Tennessee, the courts determine property division based on the principal of “equity”, or what is fair. Equity does not necessarily mean equal, especially if one spouse has a higher earning capacity than the other. Judges examine a number of factors to determine an equitable, or fair, outcome in a divorce. Sometimes, one party has already proposed a property division that seems fair to the other party, but actually it may be unfair when considered in light of what the court would approve. It is of utmost importance that you understand your rights before you enter into any agreement with regard to property, because it can be impossible to revise that agreement after the divorce is final.
I help my clients with the following issues:
- Discovering the FULL value of all the marital assets
- Determining what will happen to the marital home, the equity and the mortgage
- Assessing the value of items that cannot be divided, like cars, boats or second homes
- Reviewing retirement accounts and determining what amounts are separate and what are marital
- Working with an experience financial professional to determine the value of a family-owned business or the business owned by one of the spouses
- Discussing credit cards and other debt and how that debt should be paid after the divorce
If you are planning to meet with a divorce attorney, it is always a good idea to gain a relatively thorough understanding of your financial picture first. Tax returns are a good place to start, but you should make a list of your assets and debts and bring it to your attorney at the first meeting or soon thereafter. Running your credit report through Equifax, Experian or another credit website is also a good idea to make sure you get a full picture of your potential debt. In cases where retirement accounts are complex, I work with a financial professional and/or forensic accountant to determine which funds are marital property and which are separate because they were earned prior to the marriage. Most importantly, you should always consult with an attorney before entering into any written agreements regarding your assets and debts.