Legislation regarding marital rights and division of the assets following a divorce varies greatly from state to state. According to Forbes, the greatest determining factor in asset division is whether the couple resides in an equitable distribution or a community property state. Community property states recognize both partners as equal owners of property and assets, whereas equitable distribution states allow divorce settlements based on the histories of the two parties.
According to Cornell University's Legal Information Institute, property falls into two distinct categories: marital and separate. Married spouses share ownership of property acquired during the course of the marriage. Should a spouse enter into a marriage with existing property or assets, those belongings are separate and not necessarily subject to the ruling of a divorce court.
The Association of Divorce Financial Planners also cautions divorcing spouses to pay close attention to hidden assets. Unreported income and property held through a third party are subject to the same division principles as other assets. It is important to discuss the division of any and all property thoroughly before signing settlement paperwork. Furthermore, the Association of Divorce Financial Planners recommends working with a professional to determine whether maintenance payments are necessary by one spouse to preserve the standard of living for both individuals.