Colorado is a “marital” property state, which means that all property acquired during your marriage is considered joint property of both spouses, regardless of who earned the money or made a purchase. C.R.S. 14-10-113. The only property that will be considered separate will be property acquired before the marriage and kept separate, not comingled or mixed with marital property. Separate property also includes things purchased with separate property, however increases in value during the marriage are considered marital property.
Once all marital property is identified, the court will divide the marital property equitably. This does not mean that the division will be exactly equal, the court will consider a number of factors when dividing property, including:
- each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition of marital property, including contributions as a homemaker,
- who receives the family home,
- increase or decrease in the value of a spouse’s separate property during the marriage,
- use of separate property to satisfy marital expenses or debts
- support awarded to one spouse
Debts acquired during the marriage are also marital property, regardless of who incurred the debt or for what purpose. Thus, keep in mind that your debts will also be divided equally unless they can be considered separate property. Separate debts are often difficult to determine. The court will determine whether the debt was acquired to benefit the marriage, for example educational loans can be joint debts if they were acquired during the marriage, and the spouse’s education benefited the marriage in increased income or other benefits. However, such a determination is often subjective. If you believe you or your spouse may have significant separate debts you should consult an attorney.
Also remember that you are not allowed to “dissipate,” in other words, hide or get rid of, marital property once one party has filed a divorce petition. This is extremely important because to attempt to hide or eliminate marital property during a divorce is violation of a court order and therefore grounds for contempt. While you likely won’t go to jail for such a violation, the judge will take it into consideration during the court’s division of property, and you are much less likely to receive a favorable result.
Property division issues are often a great place to start negotiating a settlement. However, just because dividing property can seem like a simple numbers calculation, does not mean that it is not helpful to have a lawyer. Lawyers can help you understand what you might be entitled to under the law. A lawyer can also help you assess the value of different property or hire a professional to do so. Perhaps most importantly, an attorney can help you negotiate the best terms for you or represent your economic interests in a final hearing. Contact our office today if you want to discuss property division issues with one of our attorneys.