Getting divorced is often a very unpredictable process. Unless you and your former spouse have a prenuptial agreement or agree on all aspects of asset division, the courts will have the final say in who gets what.

That can be rather nerve-wracking, particularly if there are certain assets that have emotional value for you. Maybe it’s a piece of art that hangs in your living room now, or perhaps it’s your lake house, where you’ve had beautiful and relaxing summer weekends with your former spouse and children. Fighting to keep specific assets during a divorce can make the process more complex.

There are different ways to get the assets you want in a divorce. In some cases, as long as your former spouse isn’t fighting for the same assets, you may be able to come to agreement about how to split your more valuable assets, like investment properties and vehicles. Attending mediation with your attorney, your ex and his or her attorney could yield a workable compromise to the asset division process. Being willing to compromise on certain terms can get you the assets you want. If you can’t agree, you may have to go to court and hope for the best outcome to asset division.

How asset division works in Tennessee

Tennessee is what gets called an “equitable distribution” state. That means that when you go through a divorce, the judge overseeing the process will try to split the marital assets in a fair and equitable manner. Sometimes, that does not mean an even split. Marital assets are generally any assets accrued during the marriage. They can be anything, from the home you lived in to your former spouse’s retirement accounts to a vacation home or cottage.

You have to submit a list of all assets and debts to the courts to help them determine how to fairly split them. Unless one spouse owned the assets prior to the marriage, the property belongs to both spouses, regardless of whose money made the purchase.

If you file an uncontested divorce and do not have children, you and your former spouse may be able to make your own decisions about asset division. If you have children or cannot find a workable compromise, a judge will handle the asset division process. If that happens, you may not receive the assets you want most during the divorce. Your best hope is to advise the court of your wishes and preferences. In the case of a second or vacation home that is marital property, the courts will most likely order the home to be sold and the proceeds to be split between spouses.

You could, theoretically, offset the amount represented by the home by surrendering other assets in exchange for it. It remains up to the courts (and potentially your former spouse) to decide if that arrangement is acceptable.