Is the Separation Date or Divorce Date Used for the Value of a House?

By Wayne Thomas

The marital home can be the most prized and contested item in a divorce. It is also an asset that can change value dramatically from the time the couple separates to the date of the divorce trial. Courts generally have discretion to use the date of separation or trial date to properly account for increases or decreases in the value of your home.

Property Division Overview

When a couple cannot agree on who should get the marital home in a divorce, the court will decide based on state law. States generally give courts the authority to divide most assets accumulated during the marriage up to the date of separation. Assets acquired before the marriage and after separation are generally not divided and remain owned by the spouse that acquired them. Once the marital assets have been gathered, the court must place a monetary value on each item and allocate them between spouses in a fair or even manner, depending on the state.

Valuing Real Property

Establishing the value of real property is typically accomplished by submitting appraisals and through expert witness testimony at the divorce trial. The date the court uses to value the property is referred to as the "valuation date" and some states, including New York, give the court the discretion to use any date between the date of filing for divorce through the date of trial. Other states are more specific and use either the date of separation, date of divorce filing, or date of trial. However, these rules often contain a provision allowing the court to use a different date at the judge's discretion or for "good cause."

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Passive Assets

Good cause often exists to deviate from the standard valuation date when the nature of the asset is such that it can fluctuate in value considerably from the date of separation through the end of trial. This fluctuation often occurs with real estate, and judges are faced with the issue of determining how to apportion any gains or losses accumulated during that time. If the increase or decrease in value was due to market forces alone -- such as with an untouched vacant lot -- the date of trial is usually used. This is because if the date of separation or date of filing were used, the spouse awarded the property would be unfairly given a windfall, rather than sharing equally with the other spouse in any passive increase or decrease in value.

Active Assets

However, if the increase or decrease in the value of the property during the divorce can be attributed to the actions of a spouse, courts are generally allowed to use the date of separation in setting a value. An example might be if the spouse that continued to reside in the marital home throughout the divorce made several improvements to the property or failed to maintain it after separation. Here, the gain or loss is viewed as the separate property of that spouse, and it would be unfair to have the other spouse enjoy or be burdened by these actions.

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How to Determine the Value of Possessions in a Divorce

References

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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.

New York Divorce Law: Separate Property

Property division plays an important role in most New York divorces. The process begins with classifying assets owned by a couple as either marital or separate. Certain considerations will factor into this analysis, including the existence of written agreements and the parties' treatment of the property during the marriage. Once the determination is made, all marital property is divided between the parties based on fairness, with separate property remaining with the individual who acquired it.

Does a Spouse Get Increased Value in an Inherited Home in Divorce?

There are few black-and-white answers when it comes to inherited property in divorce. An inherited asset starts out belonging solely to the spouse who received it, and it may remain that way – or it may not. It depends on what you do with it between the date you receive it and the time your marriage ends. If it appreciates in value, this is an additional factor the court must consider -- the question becomes why its value went up. Depending on the answer, the increase might be yours, or you might have to share it with your spouse.

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