When clients come to our firm, two of their biggest concerns are protecting their assets and of course, avoiding financial ruin. They know that divorce touches bank accounts, savings, retirement accounts, pensions, investments, real estate, and even entire businesses, but to what extent exactly, they’re not entirely sure. In fact, fears of “losing it all” often keep unhappy spouses in bad marriages for far too long until they can’t take it anymore.
The good news is that with an experienced divorce attorney, it’s entirely possible to avoid financial ruin while protecting the bulk of your assets. There is no reason why things should go sideways. But for you to maintain as much control as possible, it’s best to seek a collaborative divorce that stays out of court and we’ll explain why.
Utah is a Community Property State
It’s important that you know that Utah is one of a handful of states that uses the community property method to distribute a couple’s assets in a divorce. Under our community property law, all marital property is owned equally or 50-50 by both spouses. This means that if a couple cannot reach a property division agreement outside of court, a judge will divide all “marital property” equally between the spouses.
Can a couple deviate from a 50-50 split? Absolutely. A couple can make any arrangement outside of court as long as it’s fair and reasonable. If they can’t reach such an agreement, they head straight to court and a judge divides everything evenly.
When a divorce is litigated and the property is divided by a judge, the judge’s first order of business is to determine what is marital or owned equally by both spouses and what is separate. Marital property is all property acquired by the spouses during the marriage and it is subject to division in a divorce.
Separate property is not subject to division and it includes:
- Property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage, and
- Gifts and inheritances received by one spouse before or during the marriage.
In some cases, separate property or a portion of it becomes marital when the other spouse has invested sweat equity or money, which increased the value of the separate property.
If you’re concerned about protecting your assets in a divorce, the best thing to do is hire a good divorce lawyer and keep your divorce out of court, where you have no control over the outcome. An attorney from our firm can help educate you on the laws and protect your best interests throughout the negotiations process.