Unlike in business law, where states tend to lean towards uniformity, divorce laws can vary greatly depending on what state you get the divorce. Each state tends to have its own rules on the allocation, or division, of property. This is also tends to be a confusion to couples which move to another state before deciding on a divorce. Here is an overview of the differences between equitable distribution and community property laws.

In all actuality, there are only 9 community property states. Although, the laws which govern the distribution of marital assets contrasts drastically from equitable distribution rules. In community property states, judges simply apply a 50/50 clause when dividing a divorcing couple’s joint assets. Generally, age, health, or employment are not taken into consideration when dividing these joint assets. These states consider this application very quick and easy. This form of asset division disregards many of the applicable reasoning’s implied through equitable distribution.divorce

It makes for quicker decision making, and does not prolong the divorce process by way of elimination of the things that may otherwise have to be taken into consideration before rendering a final decision. Although, age, health, and employment are taken into consideration when awarding alimony/maintenance, or child support. In fact, for a spouse who spent the majority of the marriage as a homemaker and raising the children, community property states are known to award very large sums in accordance with their laws.

The majority of states apply the rules of equitable division when dividing a divorcing couple’s assets. Equitable distribution application entails a judge to deeply consider the circumstances revolving around each individual before rendering a decision in regards to property distribution. This also means that a large sum of power is invested in the judge, as opposed to a standard definition. It relies on the judge to translate and apply the law according to their perception of that law.

Numerous factors are brought into the equation, such as the ability of each spouse to support themselves and/or the children after the divorce. The judge will take into consideration whether a spouse has given up a career goal for the betterment of his/her family. The duration of the marriage is further taken into consideration. The judge’s ultimate goal in these situations of property division, is to grant each party the relatively same standard of living that they enjoyed during the marriage. Equitable distribution means that each party will have an equal standing, or in close proximity to an equal standing upon dissolution of the marriage.



Dan Exner, J.D.

Family Law Attorney

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