Property Division Attorneys in Dothan, AL
Divorce is not simply a process that means you become separate from your spouse and move forward. It also involves financial elements. Judges have power to determine how property, including assets and debts, should be divided in order to achieve equality. It is of the utmost importance that you are represented by a lawyer with the capacity to overcome even the most complex divorce cases.
At Smith Law Firm, PC, we are armed with the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to resolve uncontested and contested divorce cases. We examine the situation, develop a creative legal strategy and execute a plan that will likely achieve the most favorable outcome for our client. We are working on your team throughout the entire process.
Dividing Marital Assets in Divorce
Alabama is considered an equitable distribution state. This means that a judge has the power to make decisions on what he or she believes to be fair and equal. There are also a great number of considerations that the judge will take into consideration when determining property division.
Property division can also affect other financial parts of a divorce, including alimony and support. Our Dothan property division lawyers will work to make certain that your situation is represented fairly and will resolve any complications as efficiently and quickly as possible.
Factors in Equitable Distribution
Under Alabama law, in dividing property, AL judges will consider the following:
- Duration of the marriage
- Any prior marriage of either party
- The income, age, health, vocational skills, employability, liabilities, estates, and requirements of each party
- The contribution of one spouse to the training, education, and enhanced earning capability of the other spouse
- The parties’ opportunity to acquire future assets and income
- The services of each parent as a homemaker, wage earner, and parent
- The value of property set aside to each party
- The standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage
- The tax implications of the distribution
- The party with whom the children will remain most of the time
Marital Property vs. Separate Property
Marital property is the property acquired from the date of marriage through the date of separation. This classification of property is subject to distribution. The property owned by each spouse before the marriage or obtained during the marriage as an inheritance or gift, is categorized as separate property. On the other hand, inheritances and gifts used to the advantage of both parties as a married couple is also marital property.
If separate property is commingled with marital property, it is also classified as marital. Untainted separate property acquired before or during the marriage is not considered for distribution. The separate property includes, but isn’t restricted to, inheritances and gifts.
To establish an asset as separate property, it must remain under the control of the spouse claiming the property. If property is commingled with joint property for the benefit of both parties, such property becomes marital. According to AL law, the value appreciation of separate property also remains separate.
If you have decided to pursue divorce, it is best to enlist all of your property, real and personal. This enables you to work with your divorce lawyer to determine what property you want to retain and what property you may be amenable to negotiate on. It also offers more clarity on all the property that may be up for discussion during divorce proceedings.
Further, it is vital that you know the property value that may be divided during the divorce, including any possible loans related to the ownership of that asset. Our skilled attorneys at Smith Law Firm will assist you in preparing a detailed property inventory to make sure that your property division rights are completely protected.
Various methods of valuation are used to calculate the value of a marital asset, depending on the asset and the agreement of the parties. If both spouses are in agreement on the asset value, courts typically accept what they say about the property. However, in the absence of an agreement, experts may be hired by the courts or the parties to assess the value of marital assets.
These experts may include real estate or business appraisers, accounts, or pension valuators. Engaging experts adds to divorce costs. At Smith Law Firm, we have the network and resources to ensure that all marital assets are appropriately valued so that you can obtain your fair share of the assets.
In an Alabama divorce, debts are treated similar to assets. This means that they will be distributed equitably and fairly, but not necessarily on a 50 percent basis. Notably, any premarital debt racked up by one party is their debt exclusively, unless the other party added to that specific account (such as using a credit card). In such cases, the other party is responsible for that amount of the total debt.
Additionally, even if one party acquired the debt, if both spouses agree with the creditor, then contract law will take precedence over state law, and both parties will be accountable for the debt. For instance, if the party who is obligated for the credit card loan under a divorce agreement does not pay off the debt, the card issuer can take collection actions against the other spouse for the total amount due.
Gifts and Inherited Property
If a spouse receives an inheritance or a gift in AL, it is categorized as separate property and is not subject to equitable distribution. However, inheritances and gifts used to the benefit of both parties will be considered marital property. Any appreciation in the separate inheritance or gift that occurs during the marriage is also considered separate property.
In order for property to be classified as separate, a spouse will need to show that the asset in question is separate property and has not been commingled with marital property.
To protect an inheritance or gift, a spouse can be asked sign a pre or post-nuptial agreement stating that they agree that the asset belongs exclusively to the other party, regardless of how it is used within the marriage.
How our Attorneys Can Help in Property Distribution
At Smith Law Firm, our dedicated and compassionate divorce lawyers will understand your needs from a divorce settlement. We assist you in making the right decisions about your future, including decisions on your financial assets and property. You can rest assured that our legal team will:
- Identify and record the value of real estate, personal property, financial holdings, and other assets acquired during the marriage
- Negotiate on your behalf, based on the facts and not emotion
- Seek a temporary injunction, if required, to prevent depletion, conversion, or disappearance of assets or property before the court can take up your divorce case
- Prepare extensive paperwork and robust arguments for the equitable distribution of marital property if your divorce and property division ends up before a judge
The judge may award you and your spouse a share in the property through a process known as distributive shares. The judge may require one party to buy out the other for their share of the real estate. Also, the judge has the power to give exclusive possession to one spouse and require them to sell the property by a certain date.
Exclusive possession implies that the spouse can live in the property without the other party residing there. The judge may ask the property to be sold for equitable distribution of the proceeds. The judge may also award the property to one spouse and give another property to the other spouse to offset and compensate both parties. This is usually done in the case of a marital home.
Deferred Distribution in Alabama
Deferred distribution occurs when the judge awards a certain real estate to either spouse until an event takes place. The event could be a young offspring graduating from high school in case of marital property. It is uncommon for Alabama judges to resort to deferred distribution. However, it may happen if the spouses cannot come to an agreement and the property market is not seller-friendly.
There are several possibilities that come into play in the case of real estate during a divorce. It can be challenging to predict who gets to keep who. Hence, it’s critical that you work with a skilled divorce attorney with experience in handling complex real estate matters.
Navigating a Property Transfer
The first step when it comes to the transfer process is to confirm the name on the title of the property. It doesn’t necessarily need to be you and your spouse. There could have been other changes to ownership during the course of your marriage. You should verify the name on the title of the property through public records. You can also ask your divorce attorney to get this done for you through a real estate expert.
You can continue with the transfer of title once you verify that it is just you and the other spouse on the title. Ownership of property can be transferred in a number of ways during a divorce.
Our attorneys at Smith Law Firm understand that there can be significant tax implications resulting from the property division. On top of this, it is crucial for you to understand the implications of taxes in relation to divorce. If you have decided to pursue a divorce or are considering it, call today at (334) 702-1744 to schedule a no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys.
211 West Main Street, Suite 1
Dothan, AL 36301
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