Can My Wife Take Everything in A Divorce?

Wondering if you might lose everything during a divorce? Your wife will not be able to take everything in a divorce. Laws differ in each state, but assets and debts acquired during the marriage are divided. In some states, they are split equally and in others equitably. Exceptions like inheritance or assets acquired before the marriage are not included in this division. A pre-nuptial agreement, if you have one, can and likely will also impact this division.

Breaking up is hard to do, but often divorce is the only possible way forward out of a bad situation or failing relationship. But, when you have made up your mind to split, the next thing that comes to mind may be what it will cost you and the fear of massive financial loss. So, what can your wife take when you divorce?

Emotions are often running pretty high when couples are divorcing. Whether you are feeling angry, sad, betrayed, or a mixture of everything; one feeling that is common during this uncertain time is fear. How much will I lose, and how much will I have to split with my ex?

Couple sitting across table with hands crossed and wedding rings off on divorce work paper

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Can My Wife Take Everything If We Divorce?

Everyone hopes things will proceed amicably and that the divorce process will be over quickly. However, it is hard not to get wrapped up in the tide of anger and uncertainty. Blame between the partners for the end of the relationship often raises its ugly head, which can lead to feelings of greater entitlement from one side. 

Divorcing couples also often try to use the division of assets and threat of alimony to hurt their ex-partner. However, the good news is, that what your wife will receive in assets depends on a few things, such as; the duration of the marriage, who contributed during the marriage, and how well each party will be able to support themselves in the future.

But before we go on, where you live will likely greatly affect how your settlement is calculated. Some states, like Utah, divvy up the assets and the debts incurred during the marriage and both partners get half of each. In other states, like Texas, all the assets in the joint estate are considered and it is divided up equitably. In other words, the divorce proceedings will decide who receives the greater share of assets.

Equitable distribution states may award more than 50% of the assets to one party based on the fairness of the situation. So, if your wife has been earning more than you and contributed substantially more than you to pay the mortgage and purchasing assets, she may qualify for a more significant share in the assets in the split. Likewise, if she is going to be taking full custody of any minor children, what she is awarded may be greater as her future costs will be considered greater than yours.

Check what style of divorce division is applicable for your state. You can click on this link and choose your state.

It is essential that you make up a complete and accurate list of assets and liabilities once you determine that a divorce may be possible. Not all assets will qualify for division. These are specific things that either of you owned prior to getting married, gifts received, or any inheritance obtained during the marriage. The sad truth is that items get moved around during many divorces, and it can be tricky later to show proof in court if things weren’t notarized at the start.

The alimony amount and period of support is determined by each situation, but in general, alimony is not long and only intended to give your ex some time to find employment, should she not already have it. If your wife has been a stay-at-home mother to your children during your marriage, you may and likely will also be required to pay child support, in addition to the alimony. The reverse is also applicable if you have been the stay-at-home partner.

If you and your wife have children, child support will certainly be part of the equation, but your wife will not be able to take everything, even if the children will be primarily living with her. The child support payable is calculated based entirely on a complex formula that keeps the children’s best interests as the main priority.

How to Protect Your Money in a Divorce

The start of the year is also the start of divorce season. More divorces are filed in the first three months of each new year than any other time. If your marriage is on rocky ground and you think that divorce is in the cards, it makes good sense to start exploring ways to protect your assets before emotions start running wild during the process.

If you and your spouse cannot reach a settlement on your own or through mediation, the court will want to see clear hard-copy evidence of your assets and liabilities. The judge will likely care very little about who did what to whom, so from the start, keep your focus on gathering as much paperwork as possible about assets and finances.

Divorces seldom bring out the best in people, and that includes your ex-spouse. Emotions like anger, hurt, and fear often take over, and one, if not both partners, may try to “get back” at the other one by claiming an unequal share of the assets.

If you feel that divorce may be looming, there are some steps you should take that will help to protect your money.

  • Make copies of all your financial statements. Make paper copies and don’t depend on electronic statements. If things become heated, you may find yourself locked out of your banking system, so get what you need on paper long before you think need it.
  • Liquidate some assets. If you only have joint accounts with your partner, do not depend on their goodwill and generosity once the divorce action is in full swing. Passwords can be changed, and access denied leaving you bewildered and without funds. Ensure that you have an account in your own name and move enough money into it, legally, to cover you for a month or two until attorneys can get involved in case the accounts get frozen.
  • Hire a financial advisor. You may only think you need an attorney, but have someone on your side who specializes in financial aspects of divorce. This person will be able to stay level-headed during negotiations and protect your financial interests.
  • Know what you’ve got and what you haven’t got. Sometimes, especially when the marriage has been long-term, partners lose track of assets and what belongs to who. Go check whose name is on the mortgage, the accounts, investments, policies, etc. Print out balances of savings so any irregularity later can be clearly proved.

Equally important is to make copies of credit card statements or any other debts incurred during the marriage. This is important if your ex decides to max out all the credit cards after filing for divorce. Remember that it is not only the assets that will be split but also the debts.

  • Understand the laws of your state. Divorce laws vary depending on which state you live in, so, don’t depend on general advice that you may find online. The laws in your particular state might be slightly different from what you read, so empower yourself with the correct information to give yourself the best chance of a good outcome.
  • Think about what you need before you start negotiating. Lawyers on both sides will be trying to negotiate the best deal for their clients, and you can begin to feel jostled and confused by offers and counteroffers. Divorces are never pleasant, and most often, both partners will leave feeling hard done by.

Try to remain reasonable and open to negotiation; however, keep your long-term needs in mind. Figure out what your necessities are, and then list a few things that you would be willing to forfeit so that there can be a little give-and-take on both sides.

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Your wife will not be able to take “everything” in a divorce, nor will the courts leave you with “nothing”. Marriage is generally viewed as an equal partnership. Unless there is a prenup in place, all assets and debt accumulated during the course of the marriage will be divided either equally or equitably. The laws of each state vary, so it is essential to know the divorce laws in your specific area.

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