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The complex process of asset division in Washington D.C. divorces

No matter how prepared you may think you are, going through a divorce is usually a difficult process. You can take certain steps to protect and prepare yourself financially, as well as steps to mitigate the emotional and social fallout of divorce on yourself and your children. However, you will probably still experience a lot of strong feelings and a series of unexpected complications during the divorce process.

Other than understanding how the courts award custody, one of the biggest concerns for divorcing couples is how the courts handle asset division. After all, you probably accumulated substantial assets during your marriage. From your primary home to your retirement account, you want to ensure that the assets get divided fairly. You also want to know how the courts make these decisions. While the exact outcome may be difficult to predict, the general guidelines for asset division are not.

D.C. courts focus on fairness and just division

The courts will strive for a division of assets that is reasonable, just and equitable. It's important to note that equitable doesn't mean even. One party could end up awarded more than the other. There are a number of factors that the courts consider when deciding how to divide assets in a divorce. These factors include:

  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The sources of income
  • The saleable skills of each spouse
  • The assets acquired during marriage
  • The debt acquired during marriage
  • Any special needs of either spouse or any children
  • The custody arrangements for any children
  • Any spousal support awarded
  • Previous child support and alimony orders
  • Work performed as homemaker or parent
  • Loss of professional advancement due to parenting time
  • The reason for the divorce

Because each marriage and divorce is unique, so, too, are the details surrounding the division of marital assets. In general, all assets acquired during marriage, except gifts or inheritances given to one spouse as an individual, could get divided by the courts. The courts also won't care who made more money, because they place value on the contribution of a stay-at-home spouse or parent.

Date of acquisition matters more than who paid for it

It's true that in many marriages, only one spouse directly contributes to a retirement account. However, the primary wage earner is often able to devote so much to his or her career because of the devotion and support of a spouse. Because of that, retirement accounts, home equity, savings accounts and other assets could all get split by the courts in a divorce.

If an asset or debt was acquired during your marriage and it wasn't part of a direct gift or inheritance, the courts will likely consider it marital property. Once provided with an inventory of marital property, they will begin the process of determining what would be a fair division for all involved.

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