No matter the size or value of a divorce, one of the biggest sticking points is the division of property between both spouses. As you prepare to navigate this process, it’s natural to have several questions about what to expect. Dividing your assets and property can seem like a daunting task, so it’s important to understand the process a bit more so that you can prepare yourself for what lies ahead. Let’s take a closer look at how property is divided during divorce proceedings in Ohio.
Equitable Division is the Goal
In general, Ohio courts strive to ensure that both individuals walk away from their marriage with an equitable division of property. Usually, this means a fifty-fifty split of the value of the assets although a court always retains the right to do an “equitable” division. Ohio allows you and your spouse to negotiate the division yourselves, encouraging you to put together a separation agreement that articulates your wishes for the division of the assets. (This agreement could be reached well in advance, early in the divorce process, or even the morning of as you’re heading to court.) In any situation, you’ll want an experienced divorce attorney to represent you as the formalities of this agreement come together. He or she will know how to advocate on your behalf in an appropriate manner.
Understanding Marital vs. Separate Property
Before you and your spouse begin to divide up your property and assets, you must first determine which property is considered marital property—meaning it will be divided up according to the terms of equitable division—and what is considered separate property. Marital property is defined as any property or asset you acquired over the course of your marriage, such as vacation homes or retirement benefits. Separate property includes any property you owned independently before you entered into a marriage or any gifts or inheritances you received while you were married. While it may be tempting to hide certain assets, such as a bank account or vacation home, from the court in order to “protect” these assets from being subject to division, this is considered fraudulent behavior. If your spouse or the court discovers that you failed to disclose certain assets, you risk receiving a reduced amount of marital property or you may be required to divide your separate property as well. In fact, a spouse hiding an asset runs the risk of forfeiting the entire asset (instead of a fifty-fifty division) and the court can even award up to three times the value of the asset where it finds financial misconduct.
Real Estate Possession in an Ohio Divorce
A common option for couples who bought a home or other property together is to negotiate a buyout. If you and your spouse are not interested in co-owning the home, one spouse can agree to buy out the other. While a real estate agent isn’t typically involved in this process, the spouses can agree upon the value of the home to determine the buyout amount. Once that value is determined, an agreement can be reached to ensure that both parties are walking away with somewhat equal value.
Another option is to hire an appraiser to formally appraise and put a value on the property. Having a neutral third party offer this valuation could be a good way for fighting spouses to hand off the task and have a neutral number, but it is an additional expense.
To learn more about the division of property during your divorce, contact the dedicated and experienced divorce and family law attorneys at Garretson & Holcomb, LLC by calling (513) 863-6600 today.