The contentious and complex issues surrounding property division

When walking down the aisle, reciting your vows, and saying, “I do,” no one who is newly married even considers divorce as a remote possibility. The honeymoon leads to a “honeymoon period” where love is in the air, and all is right in the world for two spouses.

Over time, people change. Life changes. Even a worldwide health emergency changes everything about perceptions of the world we live in. With a divorce rate still hovering close to half, the chances of staying together in any type of environment are not something to place a bet on.

The divorce process can be cooperative or cantankerous, depending on a variety of factors. One of the more intense arguments involves dividing the marital property.

Tennessee is not a community property state

While many states have community property laws, Tennessee is not one of them. Spouses who come to an understanding when it comes to assets can file a Marital Dissolution Agreement. Caveats in the form of stipulations exist, however. The two sides must agree on everything, not have minor children or be pregnant, and other factors.

Marital property is divided by a judge who makes determinations based on various factors that play a role, except for fault when it comes to property division. The focus is on equitable, not equal, distribution.

Property division factors include:

  • Tangible contributions to the marriage made by each party
  • Social Security benefits
  • Retirement benefits and accounts
  • Age
  • Education
  • Ability to earn in the future
  • The separate assets of each party

Divorcing couples who are at odds put the responsibility of marital asset values into the hands of a judge who divides property. Should it be hard to determine, judges will seek help from outside appraisers.

Non-marital property is off-limits to the other spouse. Assets under that category are everything acquired prior to the marriage, including property, capital gains, civil damage awards and gifts.

Divorce is a new and highly uncertain chapter in life where spouses may not be their best, particularly when it comes to valuable assets. While mediation and other cooperative ways to resolve divorce are welcome, the need for an experienced divorce litigator may be necessary to secure what seems to be a murky future.