Throughout the course of a marriage, you and your spouse build a life together. During your relationship, it’s inevitable that you’ll accumulate shared property. If you later decide to divorce, you face the difficult task of dividing your shared assets.

Property division can be one of the most challenging aspects of divorce. Going through your old life together can be upsetting and attempting to evenly split up shared assets can bring up unresolved feelings. This isn’t an easy task as both parties tend to feel like they didn’t get what they wanted. Although this is a trying process, it’s best if you find a way to compromise.

How is property divided?

Alabama follows the equitable distribution system. The courts rarely decide by fairness, but by what is owed to the individual in the court’s eyes. By looking at factors such as who the assets belong to, each spouse’s income and debts, a judge decides which assets each spouse will keep. When making these determinations, the court looks at both separate and marital property.

What’s the difference between separate and marital property?

Separate property is property that was yours to begin with. Some examples of separate property include any property you owned before the marriage and any assets inherited before or during your marriage. This property can be hard to distinguish if you and your spouse share a bank account or if you added your spouse to a title.

Marital property is property you and your spouse had together. This is the most common form of property in a marriage. Some examples are homes, life insurance, 401ks, bank accounts and memberships. Correctly classifying marital and separate assets helps protect what’s yours by right.

What are the factors the court considers?

As noted above, the court factors in anything they consider relevant when determining who gets what. These factors include the length of the marriage, the income of each spouse, age, physical and emotional health, the financial situation of each spouse after the divorce and the needs of a custodial parent. The court tries its best to find what would leave each spouse in a good financial state after a completed division.

While dividing your assets, it’s hard not to think about your old life together and what you want to take from that stage of your life into the next chapter. Remember, although it may not be a 50/50 split between spouses, the court tries to make it as fair as possible for everyone.