While certain issues like alimony and child custody are only relevant to divorcing spouses on a case-by-case basis, property division is the one issue that is involved in every single divorce. All couples have assets, most have debts, and ensuring that you receive your fair share can be critical to establishing your new life after your divorce.
In Arkansas, the process of securing your fair share of marital assets in divorce is known as "equitable distribution," and it can be surprisingly complicated. Even when two spouses believe they are on the same page, they will frequently have overlooked key marital assets, divided "separate assets" (which are not subject to distribution) and agreed to a property settlement that does not accurately reflect either spouse's rights under the law. As a result, even if you and your spouse have already discussed how you will divide your property, it is still critical that you speak with an experienced attorney.
Like most states, Arkansas has moved away from the traditional "community property" model for establishing spouses' property rights. While the community property rule typically grants each spouse a 50 percent ownership interest in marital property, under Arkansas' equitable distribution law, there is merely a presumption that a 50/50 distribution is the most equitable option available. Whether due to waste of assets, self-inflicted loss of income, one spouse's agreement to forego career opportunities during the marriage or any of a variety of other issues, it will often be the case that something other than an equal split is the most equitable in light of the circumstances at hand.
In most divorces, the spouses (each represented by their own legal counsel) negotiate their property settlement without court involvement. In doing so, they will rely on the factors that judges use to distribute marital assets when spouses take their divorce to court. These factors include:
In general terms, a couple's marital estate will include all assets acquired between the dates of marriage and divorce. Any assets that one spouse owned prior to the marriage will constitute separate property. However, exceptions apply, and identifying and valuing the assets subject to distribution can often present significant challenges.
Depending upon the unique circumstances involved, divorcing spouses' marital assets may include:
If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you are concerned that your spouse may be contemplating a divorce, we encourage you to contact us for a complimentary initial consultation. To speak with an attorney at Rhoads & Armstrong in confidence, please call 479-254-0135 or get in touch online today.