Salt Lake City Property Division Attorneys
The lawyers at Christensen Law have over 30 years of legal experience representing clients in Salt Lake City. Especially on matters like property division, you will need a tenacious and analytical litigator on your side to safeguard your property rights and keep your best interests in mind as a former spouse. The team at Christensen Law takes a customer-oriented approach to all their cases, and you can be sure that you will be in experienced, professional hands with the firm.
When spouses divorce, they must divide their marital property according to Utah’s equitable division rules. They may decide on a settlement between themselves, or they can defer to a court order if they cannot agree. Note that the rule about equitable division does not mean the division must be literally equal along a half-half split, but rather that the division is fair and reasonable based on each spouse’s contribution to the marital property and on each person’s projected future needs.
Marital Property vs. Separate Property
The distribution of property depends primarily on what property belongs to the marriage (marital property) and what property belongs to each of the two spouses’ individually (separate property). In general, marital property is property acquired or earned during the marriage, including earned income. Separate property is anything that belonged to one spouse before marriage and was kept separate throughout the marriage. Separate property could also include gifts and inheritance given only to one spouse during the marriage. Note that commingling separate property renders it marital property by law; that is, property used for the benefit of the marriage, even if it began as separate property, may now be considered marital property.
The most common types of property divided at divorce are real property like the family home, personal property like jewelry and clothing, and financial assets like income, dividends, and benefits. All the marital property must be divided between the spouses when the marriage ends, including marital debts.
Factors Considered by a Judge
Judges in Utah have discretion to consider a variety of factors unique to each marriage when determining property division. In most cases, it will consider the length of the marriage and how the spouses acquired the marital property, as well as the conditions each spouse will face alone after the divorce, like their medical needs, childcare costs, level of education, and earning potential.
Note that Utah courts consider alimony as part of the equitable division of marital property. Alimony, or spousal support, is a payment from one spouse to the other to help the receiving spouse maintain a lifestyle as close as possible to the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage or during separation. If it is more equitable, the court might base alimony on the standard of living at the time of trial.
To determine the amount of alimony due, the court may examine either spouse’s fault in the deterioration of the marriage, as well as the recipient spouse’s financial resources, earning capacity, and whether that spouse worked in a business owned or operated by the paying spouse. Additionally, the court will also look at a spouse’s ability to pay, the length of the marriage, who has custody of the children, and whether the paying spouse’s earning capacity increased because the receiving spouse contributed to education or training during marriage. Generally, alimony payments can last only as long as the number of years the marriage existed.
Seek an Experienced Lawyer on Your Property Division Case
Throughout the legal process, divorcing spouses have opportunities to agree between themselves on what they believe to be fair division. They can decide to sell certain assets and divide the proceeds, while allowing each spouse to keep certain other assets. Whatever agreements the spouses make, they must submit a marital settlement agreement to the court for approval. If the spouses cannot work together, or if there are certain items of property that they cannot agree on, then the court will decide for them.
It is most advisable to enlist the help of a skilled lawyer to guide you through the negotiations process, especially when important property like the family home or other marital assets are on the discussion table. The lawyers at Christensen Law are tenacious and aggressive lawyers who will fight for your best interests in the property division process. The team will be readily accessible throughout the case to work personally with you on the settlement of your marital assets following a divorce.