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We're married. How do we divide our property and debts if we separate or divorce?

We're married. How do we divide our property and debts if we separate or divorce?
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Reviewed: 
July 31, 2017
Answer

In most cases, the law says that married couples have to share the value of their property if they separate or divorce. This means that the partner who has more property usually pays money to the partner who has less property. Usually, the property itself is not physically divided.

To share the value of your property at the end of your relationship, you have to first list and value all of your assets and debts.

This helps you calculate your net family property (NFP). NFP is how much money a married partner is worth at the end of the relationship after taking into account what they brought into the marriage.

To calculate your NFP, you add together all assets and subtract all debts that you had at the end of your relationship. This is usually on the day you and your partner separated. Then you also subtract all assets less all debts you had on the day you married.

Some assets or debts are treated differently in this calculation. For example, some gifts and inheritances are not included. There are also special rules about your matrimonial home.

Your partner also calculates their NFP. You then use your NFP and your partner’s NFP to figure out who has to pay the other partner and how much. The money one married partner pays the other partner when they separate is called an equalization payment.

You can talk to a lawyer who can help you figure out what your equalization payment is.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers provide "unbundled" or "limited scope" services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

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