The marital estate includes all property, assets, debts, and liabilities acquired by the parties during the course of the marriage.

The marital estate does not include property acquired through a gift or inheritance.  Similarly, the marital estate does not include property acquired by one spouse before the marriage.  If the premarital property can be easily identified at the time of the divorce, it will not ordinarily be included as a part of the marital estate to be divided.

For marital property, it does not matter how the property or debts are titled.  For example, if one spouse has a retirement account held solely in her name, it is still a marital asset.  Likewise, if one spouse has a credit card held solely in his name and he is the sole user of the card, it is still considered a marital debt.

You will work with your divorce legal team to determine what assets and debts should be considered part of the marital estate.  This will likely include providing documentation, statements, and information to your attorney regarding all of your assets and debts.  If more information is needed, your attorney can formally request documentation from your spouse to ensure that all marital property is accounted for and divided in the divorce.

In terms of dividing the marital estate, Nebraska is an equitable distribution state.  That means, marital property will be divided between the spouses in a fair and equitable manner.  It does not necessarily mean that the division of the estate must be equal.  While in many cases it is fair to divide the estate equally, the court has discretion to award one spouse as little as one-third of the estate and award the other spouse as much as two-thirds of the estate.

In determining what is fair and equitable, the court will consider factors such as the economic circumstances of the parties, the types of assets and debts awarded to each party, and the history of each spouse’s contributions to the marriage.

If you or your spouse is considering divorce, seek legal counsel from an experienced divorce attorney to assist you in determining which assets and debts should be included in the marital estate and ensure the estate is fairly divided.

Angela Lennon