In a Utah divorce case, marital property and debt are to be divided equitably. Although this is a seemingly simple standard, there can be many complications that arise.
For example, in marriages of long duration, it can be difficult to determine what property is martial and what property is separate. Property acquired during the marriage is martial property.
Property acquired before the marriage, or by gift or inheritance, are separate property. The question of whether a spouse’s gift or inheritance has remained separated property is highly fact intensive, and the trial court must weigh the evidence and make the determination. Stonehocker v. Stonehocker, 2008 UT App 11, ¶ 29.
However, even property that is separate can be subject to division in lieu of alimony and in other extraordinary situations when equity so demands. Schaumberg v. Schaumberg, 875 P.2d 598 (Utah Ct. App. 1994).
Also, if a spouse contributes to or augments the value of separate property, that spouse may be entitled to an equitable distribution of some or all of the property, depending on the circumstances of the case and equity. The rule that each party retain their separate property is not invariable. Burke v. Burke, 733 P.2d 133 (Utah 1987).
Even business interests can be considered marital if the parties had commingled their personal and corporate finances that it was appropriate to treat the corporate debt as marital property.
A spouse may also be able to “pierce the corporate veil,” if a spouse attempts to use a corporation to shield assets from a court-ordered property distribution. Colman v. Colman, 743 P.2d 782 (Utah Ct. App. 1987).
Retirement accounts are also a part of the marital estate and are generally to be divided equitably. However, an unequal division of marital property is justified when the trial court finds exceptional circumstances supporting an unequal division. Riley v. Riley, 2006 UT App 214, 138 P.3d 84 (Utah Ct. App. 2006).
These are just a few examples of how complicated and uncertain the area of family law can be.
The best way to make sure you are putting yourself in the best position to prevail is to hire an attorney who can do the work necessary to trace assets, issue subpoenas to financial institutions, and do discovery request and depositions to find assets and make compelling arguments for or against separate or marital property or for or against and equal or unequal distribution of assets.
Our consultations are always free, and our fees are reasonable.
For a Free Divorce or Family Law Case Evaluation and Consultation, Call (801) 312-9330.
Our Family Law firm is located at 1355 North Main St, Ste 8, Bountiful, Utah 84010.