Property division and distribution is one of the most prominent sources of conflict in a divorce. Property isn’t just real estate either: Divorces divide furniture, vehicles, investment and retirement accounts, business interests, personal items like jewelry and art, and more. They also allocate responsibility to pay debts. From protecting assets you’ve been acquiring for years, to understanding the separation of acquired debt and retirement plans, to seeing your financial future, we can help. Contact Gjesdahl Law divorce attorneys for guidance with property distribution.
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North Dakota is an equitable distribution state. It includes all of the parties’ assets and debts within the distributable estate, then attempts to divide them fairly. “Equitable” often means equal...but not always. The court considers all of the parties’ circumstances, then attempts to fashion an outcome unique and fair to that particular couple.
"All of the parties' assets, regardless of the source, must be considered to ensure an equitable distribution of the marital property." Heinz vs. Heinz, 2001 ND 147, ¶5, 632 N.W.2d. 443. In fact, a spouse need not make a direct contribution to the acquisition of an asset for it to be included in the marital estate. Berg vs. Berg, 490 N.W.2d. 487, 492 (N.D. 1992); Bullock vs. Bullock, 354 N.W.2d. 904, 909-910 (N.D. 1984). “All” means all! In North Dakota, there is no such thing as “separate” or “non-marital” assets. All assets, no matter how or when acquired, are included in the distributable estate. Accordingly:
Marital property generally includes:
Marital property does not include:
Debts are divided in a divorce, too, whether those debts are jointly or individually incurred. Liability for joint debts can be assigned to one party or the other. Importantly, being relieved of the obligation to pay a debt by a divorce judgment does not relieve a person of liability to the original creditor. Accordingly, it is wise to require that joint debts be fully paid off, or refinanced into one person’s name.
Calculating child support is largely unrelated to dividing assets and debts. A person’s child support obligation is calculated by reference to his or her income level, not net worth.
Spousal support is more complicated. When North Dakota courts decide whether one party should pay to help sustain the other party after divorce, it will be interested in the parties’ income, their reasonable living expenses, and their net worth, too. In general, the beginning consideration in resolving a spousal support claim is the requesting party’s true need and the other party’s ability to pay.
Divorce is a complicated process, often involving tax issues, hard-to-value assets, and legal issues you don’t understand. Going it alone can result in big mistakes that can never be undone. Let us help. Get in touch with Gjesdahl Law’s team of experienced family attorneys for guided help in disclosing, dividing, and distributing all assets during your divorce.