Are you considering a divorce but worried about splitting up everything you own? You’re probably wondering, “Can you divorce without splitting assets?”
As popular divorce lawyers in Phoenix, Lincoln & Wenk works hard to advocate for your interest during divorce proceedings and can help you navigate this difficult time. With decades of experience, we’re passionate about helping you with legal approaches to divorce without asset splitting.
What Is Asset Splitting?
What is considered an asset? An asset is anything that has real, measurable value. An asset includes tangible items, such as your home, furniture, and cars, and intangible yet measurable things, like stocks, investments, and your bank account balance. If you accumulated assets while married, they likely legally belong to both you and your ex.
Each state has different laws dictating the process of splitting your assets, and it often depends on the type of assets you own. Therefore, the answer to, “Can you divorce without splitting assets?” doesn’t have a clear-cut answer. However, in general, you can take steps to protect your assets and, in some circumstances, even avoid splitting them during the divorce.
Depending on the state, the court may exclude certain assets from the division. This includes:
- Inheritance or gifts given to one spouse which were never declared as or converted to marital property
- Property or assets acquired after filing for divorce
- Assets included in a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement
Factors That Affect Splitting Your Assets
While each state differs slightly concerning what affects your ability to split assets, in general, you can assume the following situations apply in every state.
If your state allows at-fault divorces, and you can prove your spouse is at fault for the divorce (such as due to infidelity), you’ll have more bargaining power in keeping your assets. Even in a no-fault state, the judge may take certain behaviors into account when determining the specifics of your asset division.
In addition to infidelity, marital misconduct can include:
- Domestic violence
- Substance abuse
Can you divorce without splitting assets? If your spouse engages in excessive spending or fraudulent economic practices, the judge may award them a significantly lower percentage of your assets. For example, if you can provide evidence of excessive gambling or a shopping addiction, the judge may consider those financial damages and reduce the amount of assets they’re owed by the amount of money your spouse lost during the marriage.
The court may also consider any hidden or undisclosed assets your ex didn’t reveal to you before or during the marriage.
The court considers how much each spouse contributed financially during the marriage. For example, if one spouse produced 70% of the income during the relationship without any other mitigating factors, the court might award them the same percentage of assets.
If you’re a stay-at-home parent, don’t worry. Many states consider that a valuable profession and factor that into your total financial contribution during the marriage.
What Is a Status-Only Divorce?
A status-only divorce legally ends a marriage without requiring you to sort out issues like asset division or custody battles. In normal court proceedings, you gain your legal status of single only at the end of the process, after you’ve dealt with other legal issues. However, this prevents both parties from remarrying or filing taxes as a single person.
While this won’t necessarily prevent the splitting of assets, it’s the first step in moving forward with your life without spending a lengthy time period in the legal system. However, you must wait at least six months after the original divorce petition before you can request a status-only divorce.
Tips for Avoiding Asset Splitting During Divorce
You can use several methods to proceed through divorce without asset division.
Sign Prenuptial Agreements
The easiest way you can manage separation without splitting property is through signing a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is a contract signed by both partners that outlines what happens to assets during a divorce.
For example, both parties might agree that each partner regains the assets they had before the marriage and agree to split accrued debt evenly, regardless of which partner acquired it. To ensure the agreement is legally enforceable, use a lawyer to construct the contract and oversee its signing.
A postnuptial agreement functions the same way, but the partners sign it after the marriage, rather than before.
Mediation uses a third party, rather than each partner’s lawyers, to improve communication between the parties and help decide how to split the assets. You can still ask for advice from your lawyer, and many mediators suggest you still hire one, but the mediator doesn’t advocate for one spouse over the other.
The benefits of mediation include the following:
- The process usually requires less time, stress, and money than using the court to divide assets.
- You and your ex maintain control over the divorce proceedings rather than leaving them to the decision of the judge.
- It often prioritizes the benefit of the child.
Engage in Collaboration
Can you divorce without splitting assets? One way of making the process easier is through collaboration.
Collaboration functions as a midway point between traditional court proceedings and mediation. While each former spouse hires their own lawyer to represent their own interests, they approach the proceedings with the expectation of compromise and mutual benefit. By contrast, in the traditional process of splitting assets, the lawyers often take a combative approach to better advocate for the exclusive benefit of their client.
Compared to mediation, collaboration provides many of the same benefits, particularly a faster time for completion. However, because it involves legal counsel, it’ll cost more than mediation, but not as much as traditional proceedings. If all the involved parties aren’t fully committed to keeping the process collaborative, it can turn combative, at which point you might require a judge.
File for Uncontested Divorce
Another way of avoiding the process of asset division is using options for uncontested divorce. The first form of uncontested divorce requires both partners to agree to all the terms, such as custody, dividing assets, alimony, and shared debt. They outline the agreement, sign it, and submit it to the court for ratification.
The second form of uncontested divorce is when one partner files for the divorce asking for specific stipulations and the second partner never responds or shows up in court. When this happens, the proceedings continue without the unresponsive party and the court decides whether the filing partner receives what they asked for.
Employ Creative Solutions
If none of these solutions work for you, consider these asset separation alternatives in divorce:
- Trading assets: You can agree to trade assets with your spouse. Under this arrangement, each spouse agrees to give up rights to certain assets in favor of others.
- Deferred sales: Under this agreement, one spouse agrees to buy out the other partner’s shares in the marital home or other asset at a later date.
- Trust establishment: If you can’t agree about who should receive certain assets, consider putting them into a trust for your children.
- Excluding certain assets: If you share ownership in a family business, you might decide not to subject those assets to division. Another rare yet potential solution is to continue living in the same house as your ex-partner or similar creative solutions.
The Danger of Avoiding Asset Division
Must you split assets during a divorce? Technically yes, because you must decide what happens to all the property and belongings you acquired during your marriage. However, with no asset division divorce arrangements like an uncontested divorce or mediation, you can forgo the traditional process of using a judge to divide the assets.
If you decide to forgo traditional asset division, stay aware of the potential risks involved. The biggest danger is that one spouse can later file an undivided marital asset claim. Under this legal filing, the court rules on any asset you either didn’t disclose or excluded from the original asset agreement.
While in many states you cannot contest the division of assets after the ruling, the restriction doesn’t apply to undivided assets.
Keeping co-ownership of a home, car, or business can also become problematic if the controlling partner has a change in finances or the ability to care for the asset. For example, if you’ve agreed to let your spouse live in the marital home while still raising children, it might not cause problems. However, if they lose their job or can no longer care for the home, you may end up bearing some financial burden you’d otherwise be free of.
Carefully consider whether avoiding dividing assets is in your interest.
Lincoln & Wenk’s Divorce Lawyer Offers Consultations
Can you divorce without splitting assets? Yes, but it’s not always a good idea. Furthermore, you can use non-combative and creative solutions to split the assets to everyone’s benefit.
Whether you need help proving separate properties or completing the collaboration process, Lincoln & Wenk can help. Our team of experienced lawyers in Arizona knows the law and relentlessly advocates for your interest. To request a consultation, contact us today.