Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful and challenging experiences of a person’s life. Once the dust begins to settle, often the first thing people think about is what’s going to happen to their assets and possessions—who gets what, when and how?
These are perfectly reasonable questions to ask. The laws are complex and vary by state. Some states divide property evenly down the middle, others value each asset and make equitable decisions accordingly, while other states take into consideration many other factors.
If you are facing divorce and want to take control of your marital assets, one of our qualified Knoxville divorce attorneys can guide you through the process step-by-step. Give us a call to learn more.
Property division in Tennessee
The state of Tennessee defines property division as the dividing of marital property during divorce proceedings. The dividing of property is not necessarily equal in Tennessee, as it is an equitable distribution state, meaning the court may decide to value all property and divide the assets equally between both parties according to their monetary value.
Under T.C.A. § 36-4-121(c), the court will consider the value of each party’s assets separately, apart from shared marital assets. If the court determines one spouse is significantly better off monetarily than the other, it may award a more substantial portion of the marital assets to the less-advantaged spouse.
In sum, the state of Tennessee does not necessarily split assets 50-50 in divorce cases. It also does not guarantee each asset will be divided evenly, or at all. As an equitable distribution state, the court will value each spouse’s assets, and compare them to assets gained within the marriage to come to a fair distribution.
What determines the division of property?
Several factors go into the court’s division of property. These include, but are not limited to:
The age, health, earning capacity, employability, skills, financial liabilities, estate, and financial requirements of each spouse
The contribution, tangible or intangible, by one party to the training, education, or increased earning power of the other party
The length of the marriage
The future income potential of each party
Each party’s ability to accumulate assets in the future
The value of each party’s property outside of the marriage
Tax consequences to each party, as well as costs associated with the foreseeable sale of assets, along with other expenses related to the asset
The total value of social security assets available to each party
The estate of each spouse at the time of marriage
The value of each party’s separate property
Each party’s contribution to the acquisition, appreciation, depreciation, preservation, or dissipation of the property, including the contribution to the marriage as a wage earner, homemaker, or parent (the contribution of a party as is given the same weight regardless of role provided each party has fulfilled that role)
Additional factors necessary to consider the equities between the two parties
It is extremely important to note there are cases where separate property will be considered marital property by the court. This is referred to as commingling and transmutation. Should the separate property be treated in a manner consistent with being marital property, it will be considered joint (marital) property.
For example, if you owned a car prior to your marriage and following marriage, your spouse began using your car daily to go to work, run errands, or travel, a court might be considered marital property.
Or perhaps your spouse owned a vacation home. If you consistently used that vacation home for trips or family events for the duration of your marriage, it could be considered a transmutation, and thus be treated as marital property.
In the case of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, certain assets may be exempt from commingling and transmutation exceptions.
How your assets are valued
Assets vary by nature and in terms of how they are assigned a monetary value. Assets such as investment portfolios, stocks, and bank accounts have an easily determinable dollar value. Assets like cars, boats, and real estate also have sticker prices, but these can be disputable.
Then there are assets like businesses, fine art, collectibles, and jewelry. With these, one or both parties might call in outside experts or appraisers. At the end of the day, the value of these kinds of assets may come down to opinion, both professional and personal, presented to the court. You don’t have to handle this alone. At Landry & Azevedo, we can assist you through the official valuing of assets and connect you with the most reputable industry experts in the Knoxville are to help your case.
Non-marital property is considered separate property in Tennessee and includes:
All personal property owned by a spouse prior to the marriage (as long as it has not been commingled or transmutated)
Income from property (i.e., rent) or increased value of a property, unless determined to be marital property
An inheritance or property acquired at any time by any legal means as long as it has not been commingled
Gifts received from a spouse (i.e., car, jewelry) unless determined to be marital property
Pain and suffering awards resulting from personal injury or crime, victim of crime compensation awards, associated future medical expenses and lost wages
Property acquired as a result of an order of legal separation (after the court has made a final disposition of property.
Find a lawyer you can trust with your property division matters
If you are facing a divorce in the Knoxville area, chances are you have a lot on your plate. Valuing your separate and marital assets may be the last thing on your mind, or it may be the first. Regardless, it can be extremely difficult and a complicated process to navigate without proper legal counsel.
We have helped hundreds of clients identify and retain what is rightfully theirs. Whether you signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, had millions in assets before your marriage or very little at all, it is crucial to address your property division matters promptly.