What Property Gets Divided in a Divorce?
Utah divorce courts can generally divide any property a spouse acquires during his/her marriage. The presumption is such property will be divided equally. However the court can divide property unequally for exceptional circumstances.
Utah law defines “property” broadly as not just things you can physically touch like a house, furniture, cars, or the like but also equity in a home, financial accounts, business interests, retirement accounts, investments, etc.
When a couple marries they usually bring property they owned before getting married. This is called “separate” property. The general rule is each spouse is entitled to keep his or her separate property in a divorce (together with any appreciation of its value) even if the other spouse gets to use that property during the marriage. However separate property can become marital property subject to division in a divorce if a spouse transfers or gifts ownership of that property to their spouse (e.g. refinancing a house into both spouse’s names), commingles that property with marital property (e.g. transferring money from one spouse’s pre-marital bank account into a joint marital bank account), or if the other spouse converts it into marital property by contributing to the enhancement, maintenance, or protection of that property (e.g. making significant and valuable improvements to a house the other spouse bought prior to marriage).
Not all property acquired during a marriage is subject to division in a divorce. For example, proceeds of a personal injury settlement attributable to pain and suffering are usually not subject to division in a divorce. But settlement proceeds for lost wages may be subject to division.
When we say the court will divide marital property equally that does not mean the judge will literally carve every item of marital property in half in King Solomon-like fashion. Rather the court keeps track of the dollar value of each item of marital property and tries to divide everything such that the dollar value of property awarded to one spouse is equal to the dollar value of what it awards to the other spouse. The court has broad discretion to award specific items of property, accounts, etc. to a spouse or order it sold and divide the proceeds.
Do you have questions or need help figuring out how Utah courts divide property in a divorce? Give the Utah family law experts at Wiser & Wiser family law a call today at 855-254-2600.