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How Is Property Divided In A Colorado Divorce?

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Kathleen Ann Hogan - Family Law - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Kathleen Ann Hogan

Located in Denver, COHogan Omidi, PC

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Colorado law calls for an equitable division of marital assets. Equitable means fair, but not necessarily equal. There are many factors that could shift the balance of how assets are divided. When appropriate, one spouse may get 55 percent, 60 percent or potentially an even greater share of the assets. However, a 50-50 division of assets does often turn out to be the fair outcome in many divorces. 

Only Marital Assets Are Divided 

Only marital property is subject to division. Marital property is that which was acquired or that increased in value during the marriage, with some exceptions. Each spouse may have separate property as well, which is not subject to division in divorce. Separate property is that which was acquired prior to the marriage, as well as gifts and inheritances received during a marriage, as well as other select assets. Keep in mind that if property acquired prior to marriage or as a gift or inheritance increased in value during the marriage, that increase in value may be subject to division. Untangling and classifying separate versus marital property can become complex, but it may prove critical to securing a fair outcome in many cases. 

Marital Assets Do Not Need To Be Liquidated 

People often assume that the family home, the vacation home and other assets will need to be sold in order to be divided. They assume that 401(k)s, IRAs and similar accounts will need to be cashed out. Liquidation is certainly not required, nor is it even necessary in most cases to accomplish a fair division of property. For example, one spouse may be able to keep the family home while the other receives a greater share of other marital assets. Similarly, money from retirement accounts can be transferred via tax-free rollovers. There are many options for dividing property, so nothing should be assumed until the case is reviewed by an experienced attorney and other experts, as required based on the situation. 

Factors That Influence How Property Is Divided 

Many factors should be taken into consideration to determine how property will be divided. Each spouse’s income will definitely play a role, and a major income disparity may be sufficient to push for a shift in the balance of how property is divided to favor the spouse with the lower income. Each spouse’s age may need to be taken into consideration, as well as how much each spouse contributed to the marital estate over the years. If one spouse contributed as a homemaker, that contribution must not be overlooked. 

Ultimately, everyone wants to live comfortably following a divorce. People know that there will be dramatic financial changes as they segue from married life, in which two incomes may have been shared, to single life, in which one income will need to be stretched to pay all bills and meet all financial needs. While it is easy to say that assets should be divided fairly, determining what is fair is no simple matter. This is why division of property is the source of many divorce disputes. 

Care should be taken to pursue a fair division of property. The situation should be reviewed closely and, if the circumstances call for it, experts on matters such as business valuation should be brought in to ensure that a complete financial picture is obtained prior to moving forward.

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