Dividing Marital Property? – How to Get What You Really Want
How you and your soon-to-be ex divide your marital property, including your real estate and retirement accounts, is one of the most important decisions you will make during your divorce. If you don’t act thoughtfully, you might not end up with what you are legally entitled to and what you (and your children) both need and want. The more you are able to approach the property division process in a calm, businesslike matter, the more successful you are likely to be. You don’t want resentment or anger against your ex to impair your ability to think clearly.
You should begin by consulting a divorce attorney, who is a skilled negotiator and a forceful litigator in court. Your attorney can determine what is legally possible for you to attain, given your situation. Discuss everything you own, whether community property or separate property, such as: the family home, vacation home, businesses, pets, furniture, artwork, cars, sports equipment, retirement plans, stock options, life insurance policies, etc. You should also talk with an accountant and financial advisor, so that you understand the financial implications of your decisions.
What will help you move on with your life?
Once you understand what you are legally entitled to and the financial implications of dividing the different types of property you and your spouse own, you can begin to think about what you need and want in order to move on with your life. Many experts recommend looking out three years from now. Where would you like to live? Will you have children still living with you? If so, what will be their needs and wants? What types of hobbies and interests will you pursue? What type of work will you do?
Also consider your shorter term goals and what will enable you to meet them. For example, you may want to keep your children in the school they currently attend, and that may cause you to negotiate for your marital home.
Understand your spouse’s position
It’s also important that you do your best to understand your spouse’s position. What assets do you think they will absolutely have to have and why? What assets will they be willing to part with? Taking the time to consider your spouse’s desires, and then communicating that understanding to your attorney, will put you in a better negotiating position.
Write it all down
Once you have determined what you need and want and your spouse’s position, write it all down. Take out three sheets of paper and put one of these headings on each sheet.
What do I need and why? – This is for both the long term and short term. Include what your children need as well.
What do I want and why? These are the things that will make your life easier and more fulfilling.
What am I willing to let go of? These are your bargaining chips.
Then, list your assets on the three pages, in priority order. Listing what you and your children want and need, and your reasons, such the family residence for the stability it provides, will help your attorney advocate on your behalf. Knowing what you will be willing to let go of, will help you negotiate for the things that will make your post-divorce life more enjoyable and meaningful.
Your primary goal is to successfully move on
Always keep in mind that your primary goal is to successfully move on with your life and maintain a positive relationship, if possible, with your soon-to-be-ex. The more contentious your divorce, the harder it will be to divide your assets and, more importantly, the more difficult it will be for your children. Keeping that goal in mind will enable you to increase the number of assets in the “What am I willing to let go of?” category and give you more bargaining power to get the things you really want.
Contact me for assistance
If you are getting a divorce and have high-value assets, such as a wine collection, please contact my office for a consultation. As a San Francisco Bay Area family law attorney, I have worked with many individuals like you and can represent your interests in the most complex of financial situations.
Attorney Hillary Warren is a Marin County CA family law attorney, specializing in divorce, child custody and support, marital contracts and other family law issues.
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