What Is Equitable Distribution?

During a divorce, you and your spouse will have to make some big decisions. Indeed, before the divorce is even finalized, you’ll need to decide if you’ll continue living together while the divorce proceedings are underway, and if not, who will live where; you’ll have to make tough choices about where any shared children will live; and, if you are financially dependent on your spouse, you’ll probably need to start thinking about ways to support yourself. What’s more, before your divorce can be finalized, a judge will expect you and your spouse to come to an agreement about the division of your property and debts. In Ohio, the rule of equitable distribution is recognized. Here’s a look into what you should know about equitable distribution in our state and how working with an experienced divorce lawyer can serve you–

What Is Equitable Distribution?

Before you file for divorce, and certainly before your divorce is finalized, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the rules regarding equitable distribution of property and assets. Here are some questions we are frequently asked–

  • What does equitable distribution mean? Equitable distribution means that property must be divided in a manner that is equitable in a divorce. Note that equitable does not necessarily mean equally; while a 50/50 split may be equitable, a judge may determine that dividing property in another way is fair and just.
  • What is equitable distribution in divorce? In a divorce, the state requires that all marital property (and marital debts) must be distributed amongst the spouses in a way that is equitable. Marital property that is subject to division is defined by Ohio Revised Code Section 3105.171, and includes all real property that is owned by either spouse currently and that was acquired during the course of the marriage, all interest that either spouse has in any real or personal property that was acquired during the course of the marriage, and any income or appreciation on separate property accrued as a result of the contribution of either spouse during the course of the marriage. Note that separate property is not subject to equitable distribution.
  • What is separate property? Separate property is not subject to division, which means that each spouse will be able to hold onto their separate property privately (however, the value of one’s separate property can be considered when making a determination about the division of marital property). Separate property typically refers to that property which was acquired by either spouse prior to the marriage, or which was specifically awarded to one spouse during the course of the marriage via gift or inheritance.
  • How to calculate equitable distribution. Ohio Code also outlines the factors that a court must consider when making a determination regarding the distribution of property. Per the law, factors that must be considered include:
    • The duration of the marriage;
    • The liquidity of the property;
    • The liabilities and assets of each party;
    • Who has custody of any children;
    • The tax consequences of a distribution award;
    • Retirement benefits of either spouse;
    • Economic consequences of an award; and
    • All other factors the court finds relevant and appropriate.
  • Is equitable distribution taxable? A property division settlement could indeed have tax consequences; these tax consequences are considered by the court in issuing its judgment regarding division of property. Potential tax consequences include being subjected to a capital gains tax due to the sale of your home, tax penalties assessed on early withdrawal from retirement funds, tax consequences on income that results from a divorce. It is important to discuss the specifics of your situation with an experienced attorney.
  • Why should there be equitable distribution of resources? Sometimes, a party in a divorce may feel disadvantaged by the equitable distribution rule, believing that because they worked more and earned more throughout the course of the marriage, they should be awarded more at its conclusion. However, throughout the course of the marriage, both parties typically contribute to the health, security, and wellbeing of the family, either earning income or contributing in another way, such as providing care for children. Because equal division is not always equitable, adhering to a system of equitable distribution that considers numerous factors helps to protect both parties’ best interests.

How An Attorney Can Help With Equitable Distribution In Divorce

Knowing how you and your spouse are going to divide your assets can be overwhelming and controversial, especially in the event of a high-asset divorce. When you work with an attorney, your attorney can help you to understand the law and your rights under it. What’s more, because you and your spouse are encouraged to reach a property division agreement before going to court, your attorney can also represent you in negotiations with your spouse, recommend mediation, and suggest other alternative dispute resolution options. Your attorney can also advise you when it comes to knowing where to compromise, can recommend experts who can help you to understand your financial situation and tax consequences, and can even lead a financial investigation, helping you to uncover hidden assets and maximize your divorce settlement. There is nothing easy about getting a divorce or reaching a settlement regarding equitable distribution; working with a qualified lawyer can help to reduce some of the stress and make the process feel more streamlined and navigable.

Learn More About Equitable Distribution In Divorce Today

If you have more questions about equitable distribution in your Ohio divorce, it’s recommended that you reach out to an experienced divorce and equitable distribution lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options. In addition to guiding you and your spouse through a property division agreement, the lawyers at our law firm can also represent you in a child custody dispute, child support dispute, claim for spousal maintenance, and other family law issues.

At the Lawrence Law Office, our lawyers have decades of experience practicing family law and representing individuals like you and families like yours. Please reach out to us today for your initial consultation.

Linda Lawrence

About Linda Lawrence