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Complex Problems

States matter in the geography of divorce

If you’re thinking about entering a state of matrimony, you probably don’t care what state you’re in. Other than a few details, like jurisdictions that allow people to self-affirm their wedding, states have similar approaches to marriage. This is why federal law allows states to recognize marriages officiated in any other state in the United States.

But the borders you are in matter more when it’s time to think about divorce or separation. The difference between state governments may mean different tax obligations but certainly includes one of two basic principles on how marital assets are divided between individuals.

“State law makes a difference,” said a financial professional who has observed differences in divorce across state borders. “If you have not planned, the state has a plan for you.”

For example, California is what is known as a communal property state. This means the standard approach to divorce is identifying marital assets as property secured during the marriage and dividing them as close to in half as possible.

This is in contrast to a state like New York, which uses the rule of equitable distribution. This allows judges in divorce cases to determine who may have a better claim to a specific asset or amount based on how much effort they put in to acquiring or keeping the asset.

People with questions about splitting assets in a divorce can consult an attorney on the best way to move forward. It may be time to determine which states would allow for a divorce based on residence. A lawyer can help answer these questions.