During your marriage, you may not have given a second thought to whether you own something with your spouse. Now that your marriage is ending and you face divorce, the question of who owns what assets may become a preoccupation. Figuring out what property belongs to you and what belongs to the marital estate can be a challenge.

You may already know that Iowa is an equitable distribution state, but you may not be sure what that means. Understanding how a court will divide your property may help you in preparing to go to court or for negotiations if you and your spouse decide not to let the court resolve your property division issues for you.

First, is an asset separate or marital property?

If you owned any assets prior to the marriage, they could still count as separate property. Assets given to you as a gift or through an inheritance may also be your separate property. That isn’t the only way that you could determine that a piece of property is separate. You and your spouse could agree in writing that you both consider a certain asset as separate. Even so, a court will more than likely require evidence of your ownership.

Any property not considered separate will be part of the marital estate. This includes anything from your furniture to your house to your bank accounts and anything in between.

Second, what factors determine the division of marital property?

Once you divide assets into separate property and marital property, you need to divide the marital estate. In order to do that, the court looks at the following common factors when it comes to each of you:

  • Age
  • Health
  • Financial condition
  • Earning capacity
  • Financial liabilities
  • Financial needs
  • Total value of marital property
  • Contributions to marital assets

The court may also consider any other factors relevant to your particular circumstances. If you and your spouse decide to divide your property without the help of the court, you could use these factors as a guideline as you negotiate your settlement.

Third, you don’t have to figure this out alone

The goal of the property division process is to gain some financial security post-divorce. In order to do this, you may need to do some research regarding your assets and the laws that apply to their division. Not all assets are created equal, and without fully understanding the value of an asset, you could end up with more problems than solutions. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through this process alone.