Colorado Property Division Lawyers
How Is Property Divided in a Colorado Divorce?
Colorado family law courts abide by a principle of equitable distribution. What this means is that a judge will divide property according to what is “fair,” not necessarily what is equal. For example, a higher earner may claim more than half of the estate in a divorce according to his or her income.
Before the assets can be divided, however, the court must determine what is “marital” or “separated” property. These labels refer to what property is jointly-owned by the spouses, and what belongs solely to one couple. For example, an heirloom from a grandmother would be a small example of “separated” property. For real estate, couples are not asked to literally divide the house—rather, the court will determine the total value of all property, and assign a percentage of total value to each spouse.
The process of property distribution is a complex process, even in amicable divorces. The complexity of property distribution can be mitigated through cooperative negotiation. When spouses empower themselves to divide the property according to what they believe is fair between each other, they avoid the potentially unpredictable decision of the court. Though state laws have been designed to provide for spouses what is fair, no one knows your own situation better that you and your spouse.
What Is Marital Property?
“Marital property is defined as any property which either spouse acquires during their marriage, except for property acquired by gift, inheritance or property excluded by a prenuptial agreement. Contrary to popular belief, the manner in which the property is titled is not conclusive.”
Any property obtained during the marriage, even property that has only one spouse’s name on the title, may still be deemed marital. Bank accounts, retirement accounts, pensions, club memberships, frequent flyer miles, stock options for past services, and any tangible property such as automobiles all fall under property obtained during the marriage that may only have one spouse’s name as the “owner.”
In addition, there are many less-obvious or intangible items which could be deemed marital property under Colorado law. These might include business interests, professional practices, and personal injury settlements. Many of these assets are often overlooked, so it is important that you work with a good divorce attorney and possibly a forensic accountant to make sure your rights are protected.
Dividing Your Property Outside of the Courtroom
To keep legal costs in line, it is always advisable to keep the matter out of the courtroom and divide the property amicably. When spouses cannot agree, the court must decide on an equitable division.
Assigning Value to Marital Assets
It is important for couples to be fair when assigning value to marital property. Marital property also includes separate bank or brokerage accounts that spouses never mentioned to their partner. When these kinds of accounts are revealed after assets have been fully disclosed, the penalties for hiding assets can be substantial.
Make a list of all significant marital debts and assets that are to be divided and assign a value to each item. For significant items, such as homes, businesses, antiques, or expensive vehicles, it is always best to have them appraised. Certain kinds of investments may also require outside assistance.
Begin by assigning the rightful owner to specific pieces of property, and then attempt to assign ownership to each item on the list. Start with the most valuable items and keep track of the total value assigned to each partner. Smaller items may be used to offset any imbalances.
Obtaining the Court’s Approval
When both spouses agree on the division of property, the court will usually approve the agreement. The exception to this is if one of the parties has not been represented by an attorney and has agreed to an inequitable division. In cases such as these, the judge may make inquiries in order to ascertain that the division of assets is just and fair.
The Harris Law Firm Can Fight For What’s Rightfully Yours
At The Harris Law Firm, our experienced property division lawyers are deeply familiar with how property is evaluated, calculated, and distributed. We can represent you to ensure you receive what is fair.
We know that certain financial situations are far more complicated than they appear—our attorneys can make your voice heard in divorce proceedings, either in court or in negotiations.
Our Colorado property division attorneys are highly-skilled in discovery and negotiation, meaning we can make sure that each and every asset that ought to be divided is counted. For property distribution cases of all kinds, you can count on the insight of our team at The Harris Law Firm.