How to Divide Money in a Divorce

By Wayne Thomas

Disputes over money can often lead to the breakup of a marriage, and when they occur, these disputes commonly persist throughout the divorce process. If you and your spouse can't come to agreement on your own, the court is tasked with figuring out where the money originated and how it should be divided after the divorce.

Classifying the Money

In a divorce, the first step in property division is to determine which assets are subject to division. Most states take the position that property acquired by either spouse before the marriage, as well as most property received as inheritance or gift during the marriage, is deemed "separate property" and not subject to division. All other property, regardless of which spouse holds title, is generally considered marital property and is subject to division.


Sometimes separate property doesn't stay separate, however. If separate property is mixed with marital property so that the source cannot be traced, the court may assume the property in question is marital property. This is known as commingling, and it can easily occur with money. For example, if you received an inheritance during the marriage and deposited it into a joint checking account that you and your spouse both use, you may have difficulty showing what remaining cash is marital and which is separate, so the court will likely consider all the money in the account to be marital property.

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State Rules

Once the court has determined which property is subject to division, the amount of money each spouse receives depends on state law. Some states take the position that both spouses are co-owners in all marital property. In these states, the court generally makes an even 50/50 division of the marital assets between a couple. Other states look at both monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage, as well as the needs of the parties, in an effort to reach a fair division. In these states, the resulting division may or may not be equal.

Balancing an Award

Although cash is easy to separate during property division, some assets do not lend themselves to being split. Examples include real estate and other forms of personal property, such as cars, art, or pets. In these situations, money owned by the couple can be very useful in balancing out assets that only one spouse can take. For example, if one spouse takes a car worth $20,000, the other spouse might take an extra $10,000 in cash. Cash may be used to balance out extra marital debts that one spouse takes on.

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Commingling of Funds Law


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Divorce & Bank Accounts

Sharing of finances can be an important component to marriage. Using joint bank accounts can provide greater flexibility for paying expenses, as well as give the couple a feeling of interdependence. However, if the couple decides to get divorced, each spouse may attempt to claim ownership of money held in these accounts. Understanding the difficulties that courts typically encounter when attempting to classify bank accounts during property division, will help prepare you for your divorce.

Tangible Property in Divorce

Tangible property is anything you can touch, including vehicles, houses and family photos. In a divorce, all tangible property that is part of the marital estate is subject to division during a divorce. Dividing up tangible property acquired during years of marriage can intensify emotional stress and drive up legal fees. Deciding what to do with the family home can be difficult, but it is easy to put a dollar value on it by having it appraised. Deciding who gets to keep sentimental items that might not be worth a lot of money can sometimes be more difficult.

Marital Property Laws in Ohio

Couples who decide to divorce often wonder how their property will be split, or how much say they have in the matter. The answers to these questions depend, in large part, on where you live and the character of the property in question. Ohio is an equitable distribution state, meaning that courts split your marital property in a manner that is intended to be fair and just, based on factors set forth in state law.

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