Divorce and property division typically go hand in hand. This can be a very complex legal matter, especially if the couple shares a substantial amount of assets. Whether a divorce is amicable or contested, division of property can be a major challenge. That’s why it’s not only important you have an effective lawyer on your side, but also that you understand how the process works.
Is Delaware a Community Property State?
This is one of the most important questions when it comes to property division and divorce. Delaware is not a community property state, meaning property is not automatically split down the middle. (Actually, the list of community property states is fairly small — only 10 plus Puerto Rico.) There are several factors that will be taken into consideration regarding the division of property, including the contribution each spouse made to the marriage, the length of the marriage and many others.
If the time comes to consider divorce property division, the first thing that needs to be done is to take a complete inventory of what the couple owns jointly. You may think that this would be a pretty cut-and-dried process, but that’s not always the case. For example, there could be retirement and savings accounts that you may not be able to access for several more years. In addition, some assets are hard to evaluate. For example, if one of you is an artist, there may be intellectual property or expected future royalties to consider, and it can be challenging to put a dollar amount on that.
What About Business Assets?
If you and your spouse have started a business together, the matter of division of property can get even more complex. You will have to figure out how to split assets and liabilities such as business debt, property and more. But even if you didn’t share the business with your spouse, you may still have to divide those assets. Say your husband built the business but you provided support by raising the children at home, or you provided support in another way. Since you did make a contribution, you may be able to obtain a portion of the business.
You need to realize that, if you’re planning to file for divorce and there is a business involved, each and every aspect will be examined by the court.
These are just some of them:
- Balance sheets
- Financial records
- Intellectual property
- Real estate
How Is Division of Assets Decided in a Divorce in Delaware?
In some divorces, the couple creates an agreement or settlement by deciding how to divide assets. They present the agreement to a Family Court, and the judge will usually allow the stated agreement. When a couple cannot reach an agreement, the court will look at the debt and property belonging to the couple and will go through a discovery process to assess the value. Then, the court will determine a fair way to divide the assets. Fairness does not mean the assets will be divided 50/50. Instead, a number of factors may be considered, including:
- Each person’s contributions to the marriage
- The length of the marriage
- The assets and debts in question
- Childcare costs and custody
- Medical and other special needs
- Sources of income of both parties
- Past marriages
- Employability and skills of each party
- The health and age of each party
- Alimony, if applicable
- The future prospects of each partner to secure income and assets in the future
- Liabilities, liens and debts
- Tax issues
- Any gifts or inheritances
Note that infidelity or misconduct are not considered in Delaware when dividing assets. You cannot seek to withhold assets to avenge a wrongdoing on the other partner’s part.
How Can I Ensure My Interests Are Protected During Property Division in Delaware?
Since Delaware is not a community property state, you may be wondering how to ensure you get a fair amount of the assets you have contributed toward. When working toward a property settlement in divorce, there are several things you will want to do:
- Talk to an attorney first. Discuss whether a negotiation or mediation may work for you and discuss specific ways you can take steps to safeguard your future income and financial well-being.
- Get your paperwork in order. Your attorney may want to see pay stubs, household expenses, tax returns, property deeds, investment documents, budgets and other paperwork to get a sense of your financial life. You may wish to make copies of financial paperwork so it is available.
- Be honest. Trying to hide assets or remove assets and store them separately can have negative financial consequences. On the other hand, if you feel your former partner is being dishonest about their financial situation or is trying to hide assets, discuss this with your attorney, who can take the proper steps to protect you.
- Be careful about spending during the divorce proceedings. “Retail therapy” can end up being costly, since both debts and assets are divided in a divorce. In fact, it can be useful to keep track of your spending during the divorce to get a sense of how much money you need for everyday life and to keep track in case you are accused of overspending.
- Be careful about social media. Social media sometimes encourages users to show their best side, and this can mean showing new purchases. If you are going through a divorce, however, showing new purchases or trips online can give your former spouse a chance to claim you are overspending shared assets or even driving up debt. Talk to your attorney about the best way to handle social media while your divorce is pending.
It’s incredibly important that you hire a skilled property division divorce attorney in Delaware to help ensure your interests are protected at all times. You could, for example, have plans to expand your business once the divorce is final. An experienced attorney can help ensure that your business remains intact and that you have the resources necessary to continue.
At Doroshow, Pasquale, Krawitz, and Bhaya, our Delaware division of property attorneys can help take the complexity out of this process and help you and your spouse reach the fairest, most amicable agreement possible. We will provide you compassionate representation, but we will also be aggressive in making sure you get what you deserve.
Let us help you make a fresh start in your life by contacting us to schedule a consultation.