Equitable Distribution In Divorce

Divorce can be a complex and challenging process, especially when it comes to dividing assets and property. That’s where equitable distribution comes into play. In this article, we’ll delve into the concept of equitable distribution in divorce and explore how it works. Whether you’re going through a divorce or simply looking for information, we aim to address common legal concerns and provide reassurance and guidance. So, let’s explore the ins and outs of equitable distribution and empower you with the knowledge you need to navigate this aspect of divorce.

Equitable Distribution In Divorce

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What is Equitable Distribution?

Equitable distribution refers to the legal process of dividing assets and liabilities in a divorce in a fair and equitable manner. It is important to note that equitable distribution does not necessarily mean an equal or 50/50 division of property. The objective of equitable distribution is to ensure that both spouses receive a fair share of the marital assets and debts based on various factors.

Definition of Equitable Distribution

Equitable distribution is a legal principle that is followed by many states in the United States when dividing marital property during a divorce. It takes into consideration numerous factors to determine how assets and liabilities should be divided between the spouses.

Objective of Equitable Distribution

The objective of equitable distribution is to achieve a fair and just division of property between the spouses. The court aims to ensure that both spouses are able to maintain a similar standard of living after the divorce. The goal is not to punish one spouse or reward the other, but rather to ensure a balanced distribution that takes into account the unique circumstances of each case.

Factors Considered in Equitable Distribution

When determining how assets and debts should be divided, the court considers various factors to arrive at a fair distribution. These factors may differ from state to state, but typically include the following:

Marital Property vs. Separate Property

One of the key factors in equitable distribution is distinguishing between marital property and separate property. Marital property refers to assets acquired during the course of the marriage, while separate property includes assets acquired prior to the marriage or through inheritance or gifts. Marital property is typically subject to division, while separate property may be exempt.

Length of the Marriage

The duration of the marriage is an important consideration in equitable distribution. Generally, the longer the marriage, the more likely it is that assets will be divided equally. Shorter marriages may result in a more flexible distribution, taking other factors into account.

Economic Circumstances of Each Spouse

The economic circumstances of each spouse are taken into consideration when determining a fair distribution. This includes factors such as the income and earning potential of each spouse, their financial needs and obligations, and their ability to support themselves after the divorce.

Contributions to the Marriage

The contributions made by each spouse to the marriage, both financial and non-financial, are considered when dividing assets. This includes contributions such as income, homemaking, raising children, and supporting the other spouse’s education or career advancement.

Age and Health of Each Spouse

The age and health of each spouse are factors that may impact the distribution of assets. If one spouse has special needs or health concerns that require additional financial support, the court may take this into consideration.

Custody of Children

When there are children involved in the divorce, their custody and support arrangements can also impact the equitable distribution. The court may take into account the needs of the children and the custodial parent when determining the distribution of assets.

Tax Consequences

The potential tax implications of different distribution scenarios are also considered. The court may aim to minimize the tax burden for both parties when dividing assets and debts.

Other Relevant Factors

There may be other relevant factors specific to each case that the court will consider when determining equitable distribution. These could include factors such as marital misconduct, wasteful dissipation of assets, or any other significant circumstances that may affect the distribution.

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Process of Equitable Distribution

The process of equitable distribution involves several stages from initiation to a final resolution. It typically includes the following steps:

Initiating Equitable Distribution

The equitable distribution process is initiated by filing a petition for divorce or separation. This serves as the starting point for the division of assets and liabilities. It is important to consult with an attorney who specializes in family law to ensure that your rights and interests are protected throughout the process.

Discovery Phase

During the discovery phase, both parties exchange information and documents relevant to the assets and debts to be divided. This may include financial statements, tax returns, bank statements, property appraisals, and other relevant documents. The purpose of this phase is to ensure full disclosure of all assets and debts to ensure a fair distribution.

Valuation of Assets

Once all relevant information has been gathered, the value of assets is determined. This may involve obtaining professional appraisals or assessments to accurately assess the worth of properties, businesses, investments, and other assets. The valuation process is crucial in ensuring an equitable distribution of assets.

Negotiation and Settlement

After the valuation process, the spouses and their attorneys negotiate a settlement agreement that outlines how the assets and debts will be divided. This negotiation stage allows both parties to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. It is important to have an experienced attorney who can negotiate on your behalf and protect your interests.


Mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral third party, the mediator, facilitates negotiations between the divorcing spouses. The mediator helps to find common ground and assists the parties in reaching a settlement agreement. Mediation can be a cost-effective and less adversarial alternative to litigation.


If the spouses are unable to reach a settlement through negotiation or mediation, the case may proceed to litigation. In this stage, a judge will make a final decision on the division of assets and debts based on the evidence presented. Litigation should be seen as a last resort, as it can be costly and result in less control over the outcome.

Challenges and Complications in Equitable Distribution

Equitable distribution can be a complex process, and certain factors can lead to challenges and complications. Some common issues include:

High-Value Assets

When there are significant assets involved, such as valuable properties, businesses, or investments, determining their value and dividing them equitably can be more complex. Professional appraisals may be necessary to ensure an accurate valuation.

Hidden Assets

One spouse may attempt to hide assets during the equitable distribution process to prevent them from being divided. Uncovering hidden assets requires thorough investigation and the assistance of experienced attorneys who can employ various techniques such as forensic accounting to identify undisclosed assets.

Business Ownership

If one or both spouses own a business, dividing its value and determining the impact on future income can be challenging. Valuing a business requires expertise, and it is essential to ensure that both parties receive a fair share.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements can complicate the equitable distribution process. These agreements may specify how assets and debts will be divided, potentially impacting the court’s decision. It is important to consult an attorney to analyze the validity and enforceability of these agreements.

Equitable Distribution In Divorce

Role of Attorneys in Equitable Distribution

During the equitable distribution process, attorneys play a crucial role in protecting their clients’ rights and ensuring a fair outcome. Their roles include:

Legal Representation

Attorneys provide legal representation to their clients throughout the equitable distribution process. They advocate for their clients’ interests, gather evidence, negotiate on their behalf, and provide guidance and support.

Negotiation Skills

Attorneys with experience in family law are skilled in negotiation techniques. They use their expertise to achieve favorable settlements for their clients through effective bargaining and compromise.

Asset Valuation

Attorneys work with experts such as appraisers, forensic accountants, and financial analysts to accurately assess the value of assets. This ensures that their clients receive an equitable share based on the true value of the assets.

Drafting Settlement Agreements

Attorneys draft settlement agreements that outline the terms of the division of assets and debts. These agreements are legally binding and ensure that both parties understand and agree to the terms of the distribution.

Litigation Advocacy

If litigation becomes necessary, attorneys advocate for their clients in court. They present evidence, argue the case, and strive to obtain a favorable outcome for their clients during the litigation process.

Mediation and Collaborative Divorce

Mediation and collaborative divorce are alternative methods to traditional litigation that can be used during the equitable distribution process. These options offer benefits such as:

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation provides a cooperative and non-adversarial approach to resolving disputes. It allows spouses to maintain control over the outcome and work together to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. Mediation also tends to be less time-consuming and less expensive than litigation.

Collaborative Divorce Process

Collaborative divorce involves a team approach, with both spouses and their attorneys working together to reach a settlement. This process focuses on open communication, respect, and problem-solving to achieve a fair resolution. Collaborative divorce can be especially effective when there are children involved or complex financial matters to address.

Role of Mediator

In mediation, the mediator acts as a neutral facilitator to guide the discussion and help the parties find common ground. The mediator does not make decisions but assists in reaching a mutually agreeable resolution.

Role of Collaborative Divorce Attorney

In a collaborative divorce, attorneys play a collaborative role, working cooperatively with the other attorneys and the spouses to negotiate a settlement. They provide guidance and legal advice while maintaining a respectful and cooperative environment.

Protecting Your Rights in Equitable Distribution

To protect your rights during equitable distribution, it is essential to take certain steps:

Gather Documentation

Collect all relevant financial documents, including bank statements, tax returns, property deeds, and investment statements. This documentation will help ensure an accurate valuation of assets and a fair distribution.

Understand Marital Property Laws

Familiarize yourself with the marital property laws in your state. Knowing how these laws apply to your situation will help you understand what assets may be subject to division and how they may be distributed.

Consult with an Experienced Attorney

Seek the guidance of an experienced family law attorney who specializes in equitable distribution. They can provide personalized advice, protect your interests, and navigate the legal process on your behalf.

Consider Your Priorities

Prioritize your goals and interests in the equitable distribution process. Understanding what matters most to you will help guide the negotiation and ensure that you advocate for what is important.

Explore Settlement Options

Consider alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or collaborative divorce. These approaches can provide more control over the outcome and help maintain a more amicable relationship between spouses.

The Impact of Equitable Distribution on Child Custody

Equitable distribution and child custody are interconnected in divorce cases. The division of assets can affect the determination of child custody and have financial implications for both parents.

Child Custody Considerations

When determining child custody, the court considers the best interests of the child. Factors such as the child’s age, their relationship with each parent, and the ability of each parent to provide a stable and nurturing environment are taken into account.

Parenting Plan Development

A parenting plan outlines the custody and visitation schedule, decision-making responsibilities, and other aspects of co-parenting. The equitable distribution process can impact the development of a parenting plan by considering the financial resources available to both parents and their ability to provide for the child’s needs.

Financial Implications of Child Custody

The division of assets can impact the financial resources available to each parent to support the child. This includes factors such as child support payments, the ability to provide a suitable home, and the availability of resources for education, healthcare, and extracurricular activities.

Equitable Distribution In Divorce

Tax Implications in Equitable Distribution

Equitable distribution can have significant tax implications for both spouses. It is important to consider the following factors:

Tax Treatment of Property Division

The transfer of assets between spouses during equitable distribution may have tax consequences. It is important to understand the tax basis, potential capital gains or losses, and any tax liabilities associated with the division of assets.

Alimony and Taxation

Alimony, also known as spousal support, may be awarded in divorce cases. The tax treatment of alimony payments varies depending on the jurisdiction. It is essential to understand the tax implications of alimony when negotiating a settlement.

Seeking Professional Tax Advice

Given the complex nature of tax laws, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a tax professional or accountant who specializes in divorce-related tax issues. They can provide guidance on minimizing tax liabilities and ensuring compliance with tax obligations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between equitable distribution and equal distribution?

Equitable distribution aims to divide assets and debts fairly, taking into account various factors, while equal distribution refers to a 50/50 split of marital property. Equitable distribution considers factors such as the length of the marriage, contributions to the marriage, and the economic circumstances of each spouse to determine a fair distribution.

Can separate property be subject to equitable distribution?

In some cases, separate property may be subject to equitable distribution. While separate property is generally exempt from division, it can become commingled with marital property over time or be used to benefit the marriage. If this occurs, the court may consider distributing a portion of the separate property.

What happens if my spouse hides assets during equitable distribution?

If your spouse is suspected of hiding assets, it is crucial to consult with an attorney who can help uncover any hidden assets. This may involve conducting thorough investigations, employing forensic accounting techniques, and taking legal action to ensure a fair distribution.

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Legal Consultation

When you need help from a lawyer call attorney Jeremy D. Eveland, MBA, JD (801) 613-1472 for a consultation.

Jeremy Eveland
17 North State Street
Lindon UT 84042
(801) 613-1472


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