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Dividing Marital Property in an Uncontested Divorce

Posted By Attorney Jim Cairns || 2-Mar-2013

After you have determined your assets, debts and exactly what items fall under the term "marital property", you are ready to move onto dividing the marital property. You will now be negotiating property obtained during your marriage. Property owned prior to the marriage, gifts, and inheritances do not generally count as marital property.

Even though this is an emotional time, try to keep the negotiations as businesslike as possible. Be prepared with a list when speaking with your spouse; know what you are willing to compromise on. Don't get entangled in a battle of fighting over insignificant items.

As you move through your marital settlement agreement keep in mind that there are several options for dividing marital property. Not all property can be phyically divided; you will have to negotiate the value of your marital assets. You may also need to negotiate debts incurred during your marriage.

Here are a few other models which can be considered when dividing up your marital property.

Sell your property. The sale can take place in a variety of venues: eBay, Craig's List, garage sales or at your local consignment shop. Afterwards you can split the proceeds. You don't have to sell everything, you can agree on only some items.

Alternate choosing items. This means one spouse starts with choosing an piece of property that he or she wants and then the other spouse picks an item. You both continue alternating choices back and forth until all the marital property is divided. If you are having a hard time agreeing on who should go first try drawing straws, flipping a coin or playing rock/paper/scissors. Don't get caught up in doing this several times, more than three times defeats the purpose. Also, if you are arguing about the value of the items, then get an independent appraiser.

Divide the marital assets into two categories. One spouse has the responsibility of dividing up all the marital into two categories. At the end the property will be either in group A or in group B. The other spouse then gets to decide if he or she will walk away with group A or group B.

Give your property to charity. You can either give all of it or a portion to charity. You then have the advantage of declaring the donation as tax deductible when you go to file your taxes.

Another option is to bid on your marital property. You can openly bid or do secret bidding. In a secret bid, the one who bided the highest gets to keep the item. When you have reached the limit of the value of your half of the marital property your bidding is over. First know what the total value of your marital property is worth.

An example for open bidding would be, if your half of the marital property is worth two hundred dollars you can bid on a lamp for $50, laptop for $130 and $20 for mirror in the hallway. If the mirror was valued at thirty dollars you have the option of then paying your spouse the extra ten dollars.

Tradingis a common way to divide marital property. You can trade one item at a time. If this feels tedious, then trade two items at a time. For example you get the couch and the flat screen TV, and your spouse gets the bedroom set and computer.

If you feel you are lacking some negotiating skills or want a new paradigm for negotiating, I suggest reading the book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Fisher, Ury and Patton. The book has a step-by-step strategy and techniques to help you compose a fair marital settlement agreement.

If you are unable to negotiate a marital settlement agreement, you will most likely end up in front of judge who will determine who gets to keep your marital property. Instead, empower yourself now with one or more or the above options and remain flexibe so you don't have to spend money later on with legal fees and court costs. This may also include educating your spouse on the benefits of the both of you negotiating your own marital settlement agreement.