How do courts divide property in a divorce?
Property division is one of the most tedious parts of a divorce because the court must ensure fairness in the division of marital assets. The Legislative Service Commission explains that Ohio uses the concept of equitable distribution when making property ownership decisions in a divorce.
It is important to note that equitable does not mean equal. The court takes steps to ensure a fair division, but that is not always equal.
Marital property is that which you and your spouse own together. It includes all assets you secure during the marriage that are not gifts, inheritance or otherwise exempt as marital property.
Separate property is that which you own and your spouse does not. You must be able to show the line of ownership for all property you wish to distinguish as separate. Otherwise, the court may deem it marital property.
Ideally, the court will be able to divide your assets equally. However, if dividing it equally would cause an unequal value, then the court will consider value over anything else when dividing assets. The court will not consider spousal support when dividing assets, but it may consider property division when determining spousal support.
It is possible the court will require one of you to pay the other in lieu of giving property. For example, if the value of your property is $30,000 but your spouse’s property is $10,000, the court may make you pay your spouse $10,000 to end up equal instead of giving your spouse more assets.
The ultimate goal of property division is to allow you and your spouse to leave the marriage on equal footing financially speaking and to be fair during the process.