When you have significant assets, the prospect of divorce may be daunting. Who will keep the family home, your business, vehicles, retirement accounts, investments and other valuable property?

In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, Tennessee divides marital assets equitably in a divorce. Although division of assets is not necessarily equal, it must be fair to both spouses. You may feel less stressed about this process if you understand what to expect.

The property division process

Before you and your spouse can fairly divide assets, you must obtain an accurate value for each item. The court will approve the submitted valuation and presumably divide the property so each spouse receives assets of equal value.

Sometimes, the court will depart from the equitable division standard because of extenuating factors. These factors may include the following:

  • Each party’s monetary contribution to the marriage
  • Each party’s nonmonetary contribution to the marriage, including but not limited to child care and homemaking endeavors
  • The length of the marriage
  • Each party’s financial situation, work situation and employability
  • Contributions made by one spouse to the other’s job training, support or education
  • Which spouse will have primary child custody

The court also considers alimony when dividing property in a divorce. For example, if one party receives more assets, the judge may order that he or she pays spousal support.

Reaching a marital settlement agreement

The court provides opportunities for spouses to reach an agreement independently without court input. If you and your former partner cannot do so, the judge will rule on property division. Although he or she does not consider fault when dividing property, the issue of fault in the end of the marriage plays a role in determining spousal support.

These guidelines apply only to marital property, which refers to anything acquired after the marriage. Separate assets are those owned by one party before the marriage or gifts or inheritance that just one party received. However, a home or asset may become marital property even when owned before the marriage if the nonowner significantly contributed to loan payments or upkeep.