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How does "equitable division" work in a Tennessee divorce?

Summer is popular for weddings. And, whether a couple is newlywed or have spent decades married, they may assume that the good times will last forever. However, not every marriage is meant to last, and some couples divorce. When they do, they must address property division.

In some states, any property obtained while married is split 50/50. These states are known as "community property" states.

Tennessee, however, is not a community property state -- it is an "equitable division" state. This means that absent an agreement made out-of-court, a judge will divide the couple's marital property based on the needs and means of each party.

For example, the tangible contributions each party made may be considered. Whether one or both parties are receiving retirement benefits or Social Security benefits may also be considered. How long the marriage lasted may be another factor. One thing that will not be considered though, is fault.

Nonetheless, not all property owned by a spouse is marital. If a spouse owned an asset before getting married, that asset may be considered separate property and not included. Any capital gains made on assets a spouse acquired before getting married may also be considered separate property. Awards from a civil lawsuit may also be considered separate property. Finally, inheritances and gifts are generally considered separate.

As this shows, understanding whether property is considered marital or separate, and how it should be divided, is a multi-faceted process. It can help to have the advice of an attorney, who can help classify property as marital or separate and ensure the outcome is fair and appropriate.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Tennessee Marital Property Laws," accessed on July 7, 2017

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