There are generally three ways in which divorcing couples settle the arrangements to divide property. For some couples, there will be an existing prenuptial agreement that explains what is marital property and what remains separate. Other couples are able to work with one another to negotiate property division arrangements after they decide to divorce. Sometimes mediation plays a role in that process.
The third way that couples resolve disagreements about marital property is to go to court or litigate. Family law judges in Indiana can look over an inventory of your assets, hear details about your marriage and then enter a ruling that will divide both your debts and your assets in an equitable manner.
What can you expect a judge to do in Indiana property division proceedings?
A judge should focus on an equitable distribution
Indiana, like most other states, has adopted an equitable distribution approach to marital property when couples divorce. What you and your spouse have acquired jointly and on your own during your marriage will typically comprise your marital estate. Anything that you purchase with marital income will be a marital asset.
Both of you have an ownership interest in marital income and marital assets, and both of you are partially responsible for marital debts. A judge will look at your financial obligations and your assets and apply the applicable laws when dividing your assets.
Judges can order the sale of certain assets so that spouses can share the proceeds of those sales. They can require that one spouse refinances a shared home to remove the other from the deed and to absolve them of responsibility for the mortgage. They can even grant certain property to one party or the other and order one person to pay certain debts. So much is interpretive and left to the discretion of a judge that it can be difficult to predict the exact outcome of property division proceedings in an Indiana divorce. Hiring an attorney who has experience in front of the judge who handles your dissolution matter can help.
Some people try to manipulate the process
You need to inform yourself about two of the more common ways that vindictive spouses may try to manipulate property division when negotiating or litigating.
The first is dissipation or the intentional wasting of marital property. Your spouse might give away assets or sell them for a fraction of their value. On the other hand, they could build up thousands of dollars in credit card debts in the weeks before they file for divorce on purpose. Other people will try to hide assets from both their spouse and the courts so that they don’t have to divide them in the divorce.
Understanding how the courts divide property and the challenges you may face during those proceedings can help you prepare for the realities of an Indiana divorce.