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If you earn more, will that impact asset division during divorce?

Getting divorced can be a messy and frustrating process. It can be incredibly difficult to separate your life and finances from your spouse after having entangled them so completely during the marriage. After all, if you made more money, it's likely that your spouse was regularly using your income for household purchases and other necessities.

If your spouse stayed home to raise your children, you may have been the only source of income for the family. Now that divorce is imminent, you're probably wondering how the discrepancy in your income will impact the division of assets.

If you made more money and paid for more items, you may feel entitled to a greater share of the assets acquired during your marriage, which are referred to as marital assets. Generally speaking, the greater your marital assets, the greater the potential for a contentious divorce. You and your spouse likely will not agree about what would be fair in terms of asset division. Unless you reach an agreement before filing or have a prenuptial agreement in place, the courts will determine the division of assets.

Both spouses contribute to the home and deserve a basic standard of living

Even if you made more money or were the sole wage-earner, that doesn't mean your spouse didn't contribute to your quality of life and financial stability. Cleaning, cooking, balancing the checkbook and managing child care are all unpaid jobs that would cost a lot if done by an outside professional. In some ways, the spouse that stays home contributes a massive amount to a household, even if he or she only has part-time work or no outside income.

The courts understand the importance of this unpaid labor and will make every effort to ensure that the division of assets in your divorce is fair to everyone involved. The courts will look at a number of factors, including income, custody and the potential to obtain a decent-paying job when deciding how to divide your marital assets. It is possible for your higher wages and higher overall earning potential to impact how the courts eventually divide your assets.

The courts want the outcome to be fair to everyone involved

If you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of your divorce when you file, the courts will typically make those decisions for you. Everything from the equity in your home to your retirement accounts and vehicles are subject to division.

Typically, you will create an inventory of your belongings and assets, place a value on them and then advocate for the assets you most want to retain. In some cases, you may be able to claim certain assets as Marital Separate Property.

As the primary wage-earner, you may feel some frustration at the process that allocates items you purchased to your spouse. Try to remember that the goal is a fair outcome and do your best to work with the courts to ensure the best possible outcome to the asset division process.

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