Sorting out the finances often plays a major role in most divorce processes. There are several ways property division could proceed.
Some couples are able to come to an agreement, which they can then formalize and submit to the court for approval. Typically, judges will approve most agreements. A valid prenuptial agreement can also govern the division of assets and determine the status of assets as separate or marital. Courts tend to uphold prenuptial agreements that comply with formal requirements, so long as both parties signed voluntarily and with full disclosure.
Defining marital and separate property
In some cases, the parties find it impossible to arrive at a consensus and therefore proceed to litigate the issue of division. In such a case, a judge will decide which assets are separate and which are marital. He or she will then apply the principles of equitable division to distribute marital property.
In New Hampshire, the law considers any property either spouse owns during the marriage to be marital property. This rule differs from the law in many other states, which may contain exceptions. In New Hampshire, property a spouse acquires before the marriage and continues to own during the marriage will be subject to division. Thus, separate property will generally consist of assets acquired after the final separation.
Assessing the property
During the process of equitable distribution, all marital assets will need to be listed and valued. Complex assets such as businesses, retirement accounts or shares in assets co-owned by third parties often need valuation by an appropriate expert.
Factors that influence property decisions
Equitable distribution does not consist of giving each spouse an equal share. During this process, a judge should look at factors that help determine what division would be most fair to both parties.
Important factors in property division include the spouses’ respective current financial situations and future earning capacity, their health, their respective financial and nonfinancial contributions to the marriage and how long the marriage lasted. The court will also consider how the needs of any minor children may affect either parent’s ability to work.