Dividing Assets Is a Multi-Step Process
Video Transcribed: How is property divided in an Oklahoma divorce? I’m Tulsa attorney, James Wirth.
I’m answering frequently asked questions about Oklahoma family law matters. That’s the question, is, how do we divide assets? Well, I can tell you it’s a multi-step process.
First off, before it even gets before a judge, both parties are going to want to make sure they have a complete understanding of what all the assets and the debts are.
They want to have documentation of those things, so they can be presented.
Most cases get resolved before going to a final trial and giving it up to the judge. Because once we know what everything is, most of the time we have a pretty good idea of what a judge may order. And then we can save ourselves the time and the money of actually putting on a trial.
Regardless, first step’s you got to make sure that you know what all the assets are, what their values are. If we’ve got real estate, then you may want an appraiser. You may get an appraisal, and the other party may get an appraisal, and then they can present each one to the judge.
The judge can make a determination what the value of the house is, or the other properties, based on that. Long story short on that, everybody needs to know what assets are involved and what they’re valued at.
The second step is we have to determine what is separate property and what is marital property. Separate property’s going to be the property that’s awarded to that person that owns it separate from the marriage. And then, marital property has to be divided by the court.
What is separate property? Generally speaking, it’s anything that the party owned prior to the marriage, anything that was gifted to the party individually, and anything that was inherited by that party. That’s what you start off with.
On the date that you get married, you’ve got all these separate assets. If you have an inherited during the marriage, that is separate property.
If somebody gives you something, including your spouse, such as a wedding ring, that is considered a gift and it’s separate property.
Just because it starts off as separate property, doesn’t mean that it finishes as separate property. If you get an inheritance during the marriage and you keep it in a separate account by itself in solely your name, that’s going to continue to be separate property.
But if you put it in an account that has your spouse’s name on it, that’s going to be presumed to be an interspousal gift. So that separate property’s now suddenly marital property.
Also, same thing with the house. If you have a house that you own prior to the marriage, but you’re continuing to pay on the note during the marriage. Well, anything you earned during the marriage is going to be marital funds.
If you’re using marital funds to pay on the mortgage, or the note, and a portion of that is going to principal, and now you have co-mingled marital funds with separate funds. That could transmutate that real property, your house, from being separate property to marital property.
Or if you can convince the court that you can adequately trace the portion of it that’s marital from the portion that’s separate, then maybe you can get the court to divide it that way.
First step, determine all the assets. Second step, determine what is separate property. Third step, determine what is marital property. And then, the marital property has to be divided equitably, which just means fairly. Most of the time, that’s 50/50.
That can be done by offsetting assets. I’ll take this asset, you take that asset. Or, I’ll take this asset, and I’ll take that debt, and they offset each. Or it could be done by dividing it. I’ll take 50% of that. You’ll get 50% of that. So on and so forth.
The parties can reach an agreement, or it goes to a trial before the judge and the judge makes those determinations.
Either way, the standard for separating marital property is what is equitable, what is fair. So, any questions about property divisions and your specific circumstances, you’re going to want to talk to a Tulsa family attorney about that. Talk to somebody at my office by going to makelaweasy.com.