In a divorce case, the judge will divide marital property and debts. “Marital property” is any money earned or items bought during the marriage. The property can include buildings or land and household goods, cars, retirement accounts, snow machines, boats, electronics, pets, and anything else that you own. Marital debts are bills and loans owed during the marriage. The debts can include credit card bills, utilities, medical bills, mortgages, car loans, bank loans and student loans. If a divorcing couple cannot decide how to divide marital property and who will be responsible for marital debts, the judge will decide these issues in a divorce trial.
The judge will decide how to divide property and debts in a way that is “fair and equitable.” Usually the judge starts with the idea that an equal, or 50/50, split of the property and debts between the spouses is the fairest way to divide them. But the court can decide to give more property or debts to one spouse, depending on certain facts:
- how long the marriage lasted;
- the ages and health of the spouses;
- how much money the spouses make;
- whether the spouse with primary custody of the children should keep the family home;
- how and when the spouses got the property; and how much money it is worth.