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When are marital assets divided unequally?

On Behalf of | Feb 20, 2024 | Divorce |

Navigating a divorce can be tough. The history you have with your spouse can thread emotions through every aspect of the process, blurring your assessment of key legal issues. As easy as it is for that to happen, you can’t let it. After all, your divorce might be the biggest financial transaction you take part in during your lifetime. So, as you prepare to engage in property division negotiations and litigation, make sure you take a step back, recognize how the law applies to your case, and develop a sound legal strategy based on the facts.

How equitable division works in Montana

Montana law recognizes equitable division of marital assets. This means that those assets that are deemed part of the marital estate are to be divided fairly. The law doesn’t require that these assets be divided evenly, though, which means there’s a lot of room to argue for what you think you deserve. But when will the court decide to divide the marital estate unevenly?

Circumstances that may warrant unequal distribution of marital assets

There are several factors that may contribute to unequal division of marital assets. This includes:

  • One spouse intentionally depletes marital assets: Knowing that divorce is around the corner, your spouse might splurge, using up as many marital assets as they can on experiences. When these funds are used for services, no assets are brought into the marital estate in exchange. This leaves you with fewer assets to secure through the property division process. This squandering of funds is seen as unfair, which is why a court in these circumstances will likely divide the remaining assets unevenly to protect the spouse who didn’t squander away assets.
  • One spouse made significant sacrifices during the marriage: If you made sacrifices during your marriage, such as foregoing work to raise your children, then the court may award you more of the marital estate to offset the lost earnings you’ve suffered by being out of the workplace. This unequal award will be aimed at giving you the resources you need to get back on your feet and become self-sufficient.
  • One spouse suffers from a serious medical condition: A serious medical condition can make it challenging to work a normal job or even impossible to work at all. In those circumstances, a court may award that spouse more of the marital estate so that they have greater financial stability, especially when the other spouse in employed and is fully capable of caring for themselves.
  • One spouse is going to be the custodial parent: Although child support can help offset the expenses associated with raising children, it might not be enough, especially when the custodial parent needs to secure housing. That’s why custodial parents are often awarded a larger portion of the marital estate. For example, the custodial parent may be given the marital home so that the children can have stability and familiarity while the rest of the marital estate is divided evenly.

Be sure to advocate for your fair share of the marital estate

Although you’re entitled to your fair share of the marital assets in play, you won’t automatically be given what you deserve. Instead, you have to zealously advocate for what you want. This means analyzing individually owned assets, looking for hidden assets, presenting indicators of marital asset squandering, and highlighting key facts of your situation that justify the kind of division you seek.

We know that getting through your divorce can be tough with all the emotions tied into it, but this is a process that you can and will get through. And, with a little help on your side, you might be able to come out stronger on the other side with the financial resources that you want and deserve.