Consultant Recommends Updated Property Division Laws

There are numerous difficult determinations to be made by parties to a divorce. These decisions can be even more difficult when the parties are unable to agree with each other. One of the more contentious decisions involved is property division, due to the long-term financial effect on both parties.

The Governor of a nearby state set-up a commission to devise programs and policies regarding marriage and family within the state. A consultant has recommended legislation that intends to make divorce more difficult. The legislation seeks to establish a responsible spouse. The responsible spouse is defined as the spouse that does not want a divorce. Under the proposed law, they would receive 70% of community property in the event of a divorce. An exception to the general rule is that if a woman files for a divorce, but is the victim of abuse, she will be considered the responsible party.

If a divorcing couple is unable to distribute property by their own agreement, a court will be tasked with making the distribution for them. There are typically two methods of property distribution, community property and equitable distribution. Community property, used by a few states, classifies property as community property and separate property. Separate property is kept by the party that owns it or brought it into the marriage, while community property is divided evenly. Equitable distribution, used in the majority of states, requires that community property be distributed equitably, but not necessarily equally. Equitable is defined to be what is fair and reasonable based on the circumstances. This allows one party to receive a larger amount of the property if the actions or circumstances of the parties make such a distribution equitable. Separate property is property brought into a marriage by one of the parties, such as a gift or inheritance. Community property is all property acquired during the marriage.

The legislation proposed above would effectively seek to create a new method of property division that rewards parties not interested in a divorce with a greater share of the couple's community property. Many other states may seek to revisit their property division laws, and it is important that any parties to a divorce proceeding be aware of the rules in their state.

Source: The Town Talk, "Consultant to La. lawmakers: Make it harder for couples to divorce," Feb. 5, 2013

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