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Dividing property and debt in a divorce or separation

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2021 | Family Law |

The consequences of ending a marriage or relationship may last afterwards if there is an unfair property and debt division order. Take these precautions before undergoing the legal process of ending a marriage or relationship.


In a divorce or legal separation, a party may be entitled to property bought or obtained during the marriage or relationship. Vehicles, the house, and furniture are the most obvious property which is readily purchased or sold. Other property, however, may hold value such as:

  • Patents.
  • Businesses.
  • Life insurance having cash value.
  • 401k plans.
  • Pensions.
  • Security deposits.
  • Bank accounts.
  • Cash.

The parties can negotiate property division of these and other assets. A court will have to adopt any agreement and place it in an order.

Separate assets

Separate property are assets that a person owned before starting the relationship. Cars, homes, and inheritances owned or were owed before usually remain that person’s property when the relationship ends.

Some property obtained during marriage, such an inheritance, may not be allocated as marital property.

Marital property

Marital property acquired during their relationship may be divided.  Division must be fair but not necessarily equal. This property usually includes:

  • Real property acquired during the relationship expect for contributions of a person’s separate property to the purchase.
  • Cars, boats, airplanes, furniture, artwork, and other personal property bought during the relationship.
  • Cash, securities, bank and retirement accounts, and pensions obtained during the relationship.
  • Gifts to each other.
  • Advanced degrees and licenses to engage in specialized businesses obtained during the relationship.


Couples share the responsibility for debt regardless of the name placed on the debt. Each party is usually liable for credit card. As soon as possible, credit card debt should be reduced, and joint accounts ended. A party should then obtain a card under their own name.

Mortgages are usually the responsibility of both parties. A partner may try to buy out the other party’s interest, refinance the mortgage and assume responsibility for the property’s upkeep. This is often difficult, however, for a person whose income may be reduced after the relationship ends. The couple can also sell off the house and divide the sales mortgage.

Attorneys can provide options that meet a person’s needs. They can also protect interests in settlement negotiations and legal proceedings.