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Who gets what?

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Updated: 4/13/2007 6:35 pm
It's common for a divorcing couple to decide about dividing their property themselves. However, if a couple can't agree, they can submit their dispute to the court, which will use state law to divide the property. Division of property doesn't necessarily mean a physical division. Instead, the court awards each spouse a percentage of the total value of the property, and each spouse receives items whose worth adds up to his or her percentage. Courts divide property in one of two ways: equitable distribution or community property. In equitable distribution, assets and earnings accumulated during marriage are divided fairly. Often, two-thirds of the assets go to the higher wage earner and one-third to the other spouse. Nine states--Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin--are community property states. In these states, all property of a married person is classified as either community property, which is owned equally by both spouses, or the separate property of one spouse. At divorce, community property is generally divided equally between the spouses while each spouse keeps his or her separate property. If a couple has a pre-nuptial agreement that outlines who will retain possession of certain items upon divorce, the pre-nuptial agreement will most likely take precedence over a judge's ruling.
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