Nothing about the divorce process is easy, from making the initial decision to the plethora of difficult decisions that follows. One area that tends to stir up acrimony is the division of assets. While some couples agree to a fair split to minimize conflict and speed up the process, others are ready to fight for everything they’ve accumulated during their marriage.
If you’re getting divorced, know what to do to protect your assets. For more personalized assistance with the divorce process, call Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short at 334-821-3892.
How Assets are Divided in Alabama
Alabama, like many other states, follows the standard of equitable division of assets. This means that assets are not divided in half and split that way. They are divided in a way that is fair considering all of the factors involved. Relevant factors include each party’s income, each party’s ability to earn money, disability, individual assets, health, and other obligations.
However, not all assets are split up in a divorce. Non-marital property is kept separate. Keeping non-marital property safe from asset division does require work, as the other party may try to claim that your separate property is actually marital.
Proving That Separate Assets Are Truly Separate
How do you prove that separate/non-marital assets are not marital property and should not be divided? Unfortunately, much of the work it takes to prove that property is separate happens before divorce is even on the table. If you co-mingle separate assets with marital property, it’s likely that a judge will determine that those assets must be divided.
How is property co-mingled? If assets are used to benefit both parties, they may be co-mingled. If you use your separate inheritance to pay off the mortgage on the family home, it is likely a marital asset. If you own your own separate business but use income from it to pay for family expenses, that income may be considered marital property.
If any property is in dispute, work with your lawyer to figure out how to prove that it is separate. Receipts proving that it was only your purchase may be helpful, or proof that assets were paid for from a non-marital bank account.
Do Not Try to Hide Assets
Those focused on protecting their assets are often afraid of having assets seized. This may lead them to hide certain assets, either by “giving” them to family members or friends, selling them below market value with the intent of having them given back to you after the divorce, or putting them in other people’s names.
Not only is this illegal, it is likely to backfire on you. Judges are very good at figuring out when assets are being hidden. They are likely to discover your hidden assets, and when they do, you can expect to see that behavior reflected in the court’s judgment. You could lose far more than you expected if you try to work around the legal divorce process.
Remember, too, that your soon-to-be-ex-spouse knows what you have, what kind of lifestyle you lead, and what income streams you have. It doesn’t matter if they do not have definitive proof that you are circumventing asset division. They can simply tell their lawyer, who will take the investigation over from there. While it may feel risky to disclose your assets, trying to do things unethically or illegally is far worse.
Be Wary of Hidden Assets
Another way to protect your assets is to ensure that your ex-partner is fully disclosing all of their non-marital assets. If they hide non-marital assets to create a huge divide between what you have and what they have, you could lose more of your marital assets than you expect. If you suspect that your ex-partner is hiding assets or is trying to declare that marital assets are actually separate, share your suspicions with your attorney. They will investigate independently and, if necessary, bring in a forensic accountant to dig deeper.
Turn to Us for Your Divorce Needs
Divorce can be less stressful with the right legal representation. At Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short, we focus on helping every client get through their legal issues as painlessly as possible. Set up a consultation now by contacting us or calling us at 334-821-3892.