- Division of Marital Property
Couples have to decide first what property is considered marital. Any property acquired during the marriage is considered marital, however, if you received property by inheritance or gift, it is considered yours.
Should you be unable to decide between yourselves how to divide your property, the courts may do it for you. Your state follows either the law of equitable distribution of marital property or that of community property. Community property states generally divide the marital property equally. In an equitable distribution state, the courts will divide the marital property based on a number of factors including your contribution to enhancing the value of that asset, your level of education, financial status, if you have custody of the children, employability, duration of the marriage and others.
Accompanying this topic is the issue of valuing property such as real estate or a business in which the asset is to be either divided equally or disproportionately based on who contributed more to enhancing its value.
- Child Custody
Major disputes arise over who should have primary custody or if some form of joint custody should be followed. Depending on what factors your state uses, the court will usually ask family services to conduct an investigation to determine what would be in the best interests of the child. Along with determining custody is the issue of visitation and the myriad problems that arise when the schedule conflicts with an unexpected event or one party consistently refuses to follow a set schedule.
- Money and Debt
The most common issue or topic fought over in a divorce is money and debt. In a relationship where one party is the main breadwinner, the other spouse will want to maintain as nearly as possible the standard of living to which he or she has become accustomed. The issue is more pronounced if there is a disparity in earning power or employability and the couple has been married for a number of years.
Dividing the debt can be an issue but the court will bestow this responsibility on whoever accumulated the debt unless it was more to the benefit of the other party.
- Trivial Items
Any divorce lawyer will tell you stories of how their clients spent thousands of dollars in legal fees to get back the prized mustard collection, the family dog or goldfish, or over who was the intended recipient of a valuable gift. It is usually an issue of control but some parties prefer to spend legal fees as a matter of seeking retribution or some form of justice over their estranged partner.
Whenever you have issues in dispute, it is best to seek mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution rather than have the court decide and leave you frustrated over a result that may seem to make little sense.