Except for very rare circumstances, the property division in a divorce judgment is final. Before you agree to a property division in your divorce case, you’ll need to make sure everything is right before you file anything with the court. If you don’t, it could create huge problems (and expenses) in the future.
Typically, it doesn’t matter whose name the property is in – if the property was gained during the marriage, it’s marital property that needs to be divided. Make sure even property solely in yours or your ex’s name are listed in the property division sections of your judgment of divorce or settlement agreement.
Property Division in Judgment vs. Settlement Agreement
You have two options in how you handle how your property division in your divorce case. In cases when there is little property or when there are no privacy concerns, the judgment of divorce can list how property is divided. In more complex cases or when you’re concerned about your privacy, it’s a good idea to put the specifics of the property division in your divorce case in a separate document called a settlement agreement.
Typically, the settlement agreement is not filed with the court at all, but it’s referenced in the judgment. It’s still binding and the judge still has the power to enforce the agreement, but it does not become part of the court record.
Talk to your divorce attorney about whether filing a separate settlement agreement in your family law case is a good idea.
Before Agreeing to a Property Division
If you haven’t yet signed a settlement agreement or judgment of divorce in your case, you’ll want to make sure any document you sign includes EVERYTHING you have. Anything you acquired during your marriage, including assets (gifts, inheritances, purchases, furniture, money, cars, collections, bank accounts, mutual funds, retirement benefits) and debts (credit card debt, student loans, money owed, mortgages, car loans) should be listed in either your settlement agreement or final judgment of divorce.
Some of the most common items that should be identified in the judgment are:
- personal property
- home furnishings
- real property
- business interests
- retirement accounts like IRAs, pensions, 401(k)s, annuities
- bank accounts
- stocks and bonds
- student loan debt
- credit card debt
- mortgages and home equity lines of credit
- car notes
Problems After the Case Is Closed
Sometimes, you find out after the judge has approved a judgment or settlement agreement that there was other property that you didn’t address. You need to fix that problem. Ideally, you and your ex can agree on how to divide the property. If not, you may need to ask the court for help. Either way, you’ll want to contact a divorce attorney to talk about your options.
Dividing Property When You Weren’t Married
The family law court does not have the authority to deal with property issues for couples who were not married. If you have a child support, custody, paternity, change of domicile, change of school or other family law matter pending with the court but were not married to your ex, the court will not rule on division of assets.
If you have questions about a property settlement, call us for your free half hour strategy session or contact us through our website http://www.mygplc.com/contact/