Divorce is often complicated and is one of the most stressful times in your life. When you and your spouse decide to separate ways, many issues may need resolution as part of the divorce process. If you have children, their concerns are usually front and center. The next most important issue is the division of property. If you were married for any substantial length of time, you have likely accumulated many assets together, and these must be properly dispersed between spouses.
Equitable Distribution of Property in Greenville
In a divorce in South Carolina property must be equitably distributed, which means you and your spouse should end up with approximately the same value of assets from your marriage. Obviously, the easiest and best way to distribute property is for you and your spouse to agree. If you agree to property distribution, the courts will usually approve. Your attorney will help you resolve disputes over property. When you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement, you might need to consider mediation. There are a variety of factors that the courts use when dividing property in a divorce.
Factors to Consider in Property Division
There are some factors that are considered by the courts when dividing property in a South Carolina divorce.
- Length of the marriage
- Ages of each spouse
- Property value
- Income of both spouses
- Earning potential of both parties
- Marital fault or misconduct
- Health considerations
- Contribution by each spouse
- Retirement benefits
- Separate property of each party
- Tax consequences
- Expenses of each spouse
- Custody arrangements
The determination of property distribution in a divorce in South Carolina is not an exact science. The courts will review the issues in each particular case before recommending a settlement.
What is Marital Property?
Marital property includes any houses, money, investments and other assets obtained during the marriage. Anything that the couple purchased before the marriage might be considered personal property and will not be included in the calculation of marital assets. Additionally, any gifts or inheritances provided to one spouse are not part of marital property.
Marital property distribution can become more difficult when you and your spouse purchased items together before you were legally married. When couples live together, for example, they usually purchase items together. These items may or may not be considered marital property depending on the contribution of each spouse at the time of purchase and agreement of both parties, among other things. It is important to know that debts must also be equitably distributed as part of a divorce in Greenville, South Carolina.
Determining Property Value in Greenville, South Carolina
When you need to evenly distribute property in a divorce settlement, you must first determine its value. Probably the most important and largest asset that you own as a couple is your house. Determining home value can be somewhat complex because you need to find out the current market value as well as how much equity you have in the home.
The most reliable method for obtaining the current market value of your home is to get it appraised. The appraiser examines the home and uses factors such as the size of the home, the number of bedrooms and the location to calculate how much the home is worth. Additionally, the appraiser will look at the selling price of homes that are similar to yours and located in your community.
What to Do About the Family Home
Once you have determined the value of your home, you must decide how you are going to make an equitable distribution. Generally, couples have several options when it comes to the family home. You may sell the home and share any profits after the mortgage is paid, one of you may buy out the other person’s portion of the home, or you may continue to own the home together for a period of time.
First, you will need to find out how much equity you have in the home, which can help you make a decision that is financially stable. If one spouse wants to live in the home to finish raising the children, you may decide to stipulate a date upon which you will sell the home. When there are no minor children in the household, it may make sense to sell the home and share the profits. If you want to keep the home, you can work out refinancing and use other property as an offset to property distribution.
Understanding Retirement and Pension Accounts
When one or both people have retirement accounts or pension plans, there are some important things to consider. In South Carolina, pension plans that are vested are part of marital property. If a pension is not yet vested, the person it belongs to has only an expectation of interest in the plan. There are different ways a pension may be valued. When both spouses agree to the value, the courts will generally accept the valuation. If you and your spouse are not in agreement as to the value of an account, the parties or the court may hire a professional accountant to review the details and make a determination.
Retirement plans usually fall into one of two categories including a defined contribution plan and a defined benefit plan. When you and your spouse share your retirement or pension plans, you must complete a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, QDRO. The QDRO provides instructions as to how the parties have agreed to divide the benefits of the plan. The details include such things as how much is to be paid, when payment will be completed and how the benefits should be paid. Companies require a QDRO before distribution of a plan’s benefits.
Consult with a Divorce Attorney in Greenville, South Carolina
The equitable division of property in a divorce is often complex. A divorce attorney in Greenville, South Carolina will guide you through the entire process, answer your questions and protect your rights. Count on the experienced divorce lawyers at Elliot Frazier Law Firm to assist in your divorce and help you achieve an equitable settlement.
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.