Property Division

Property division becomes an issue when parties divorce or separate owning anything of sentimental or dollar value. “Property” as defined by statute includes real estate, investments, bank accounts, household furnishings, pensions, retirement accounts and many other things. New Hampshire is one of the states that applies principles of “equitable distribution” of property, unlike certain other states that employ a “community property” model.

Equitable distribution means fair, but not necessarily equal division of what there is to divide. The law provides a great many factors that may cause a court to determine that something other than 50 / 50 is the fair result. Just which factors may apply to your situation requires evaluation of a lot of facts of your marriage before one can say what is likely a fair and equitable result.

Property division involves two separate and independent determinations: 1) how much is that item worth in terms of equalizing its value by awards of other property to the other spouse; and 2) who is to be awarded a particular piece of property.

Valuation questions are sometimes addressed by professional appraisers, especially for real estate, business interests, valuable antiques, and pensions. Typically these assets require a lawyer to arrange for the appraisal and have that admitted to court. Publicly traded stocks, certificates of deposits, bank accounts, and 401 (k) accounts have readily determinable values from statements. Other kinds of property like automobiles, boats, motorcycles, and RVs have values that can be determined by such sources as Kelley Blue Book or NADA listings of makes, models, and average prices. Ordinary household items and furnishings are not typically formally appraised, but are valued based upon the opinions of the parties.

“Property division is about who gets what, and how much that item is worth. Not every case is a 50/50 split of assets, depending on the situation.”

Disputes about who should receive a particular item often involve who has more attachment to the item in question like a pet or a piece of equipment, or who will make better use of the asset in the long run.

Property division also requires that debts and other obligations of the parties be allocated. Here again, fairness is the order of the day in family court, with the court open to hearing which party incurred the debt, whether it was for joint purposes of the marriage such as buying a house or furnishings or for the children, as opposed to a free spending venture of one party without the participation of the other. Courts also consider which party will better be able to pay off the debt in the years following the court decree in dividing debts.

If you would like to discuss your property division issues, contact us.