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How to Navigate the Murky Waters of Divorce - Part 4

Posted on in Divorce

property-divisionEight Things to Keep in Mind About Property Division

The one common element among all actions for divorce is property division. While custody and placement can involve significant emotional issues, property division issues are all financial. This is not to say that dividing the "stuff" will not evoke some very emotional responses. "You will only get my great great grandfather's pocket watch by prying it from my cold dead hands" is not an uncommon sentiment when dividing up the household property.

Property division is a very broad term but essentially it means the determination, valuation and division of the things you have collected both before and during the marriage. This can include:

  • Real estate
  • Retirement accounts
  • Personal property
  • Furniture
  • Jewelry
  • Family pictures
  • Bank accounts
  • Credit card accounts and other debts

One important fact to remember about property division in the State of Wisconsin is that it is considered a marital property state. This means the day you said "I Do" your stuff was no longer "mine" but rather, "ours." Regardless of how the title of an asset reads, everything becomes joint property (with some exceptions) upon marriage. The courts do have some flexibility in dividing the property and debts, particularly in short term marriages, but it is important to understand that everything will be considered.

Here are some tips and things to keep in mind with regard to marital property division:

1. KEEP YOUR FINANCIAL RECORDS - This is repeated from an earlier blog with good reason. Your financial records tell the story of your property. They can be criticallyimportant to prove your case.

2. Disclose everything on your financial statement - Your financial disclosure statement is the court's guide to determining your income, assets and liabilities. It is an important document and can make or break your case.

3. Don't sell assets - Once the action is filed, the court has jurisdiction over everything -- even assets that have been sold. Nearly all assets can be traced. Assets sold by one party can and will be charged to that party in the property division if it was sold without good reason.

4. Consider stopping / reducing automatic contributions to retirement accounts or other assets - Assets and their values are determined on the date of divorce so you only receive half the benefit of the contributions.

5. Keep paying your bills - This is also repeated from an earlier blog with good reason. Accumulating more debt often creates more problems.

6. Don't drain bank accounts when you file - In most circumstances this creates more problems than it solves and the court will hold you accountable for withdrawal(s).

7. Keep all insurance intact - This means that your policies should be maintained without modification unless changes are ordered or authorized by the court.

8. Use common sense - Most "stuff" can be replaced. Unnecessary fights over "stuff" will have a lasting impact on your family.

Going through a divorce is often an emotionally charged, stressful period. Most people do not go into a marriage assuming that a divorce will be in the future, however, if you do find yourself in this unfortunate situation, working with a family law and divorce expert can help ease some of unnecessary demands and help you navigate safely through the murky waters of divorce.

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