When divorce proves inevitable, the issue of paramount importance to the vast majority of people is understandably child custody and visitation. Coming in second — or perhaps even first if the couple has no children — is property division, something that makes sense when you consider the time and energy that most couples expend trying to build a better life.
Given this reality, it’s important that anyone actively pursuing a divorce — or who has already been served with papers — to have a better understanding of what the law here in Tennessee has to say about property division.
In the event a couple is unable to reach an agreement on how to divide their property, they will need to go to court, where a judge will proceed with an equitable distribution of their marital property.
Any discussion of what equitable distribution means or the factors considered when a judge undertakes this process, must be prefaced by an examination of the difference between marital property and non-marital property, as only the former — which we’ll examine in today’s post — is subject to division.
At its core, marital property means any property acquired during the course of the marriage, including tangible assets like homes, furniture and vehicles and intangible assets like trademarks, patents or other intellectual property.
Furthermore, vested or unvested retirement accounts, pensions, stock options and additional fringe benefits accrued as a result of employment during the marriage are also considered fair game when it comes to property division.
Finally, both income derived from and increases in the value of separate property are also treated as marital property in the eyes of the law provided that each spouse “substantially contributed to its preservation and appreciation.”
Here, substantial contributions are defined as indirect or direct contributions made as “homemaker, wage earner, parent or family financial manager” along with other factors the court may consider relevant to the analysis.
We’ll continue our discussion of this complex topic in our next post, examining how Tennessee defines non-marital — or “separate property” — for the purposes of property division.
In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns regarding divorce or a divorce-related issue, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional able to provide answers and pursue solutions.