Couples going through a divorce in Alabama will have to sort through and split up all the assets that they accumulated through the course of their marriage. But before setting specific expectations of what you hope to receive, it can be useful to understand state rules regarding property division.

Marital property

Through your marriage, it’s not uncommon to have a bank account that you and your spouse deposited pay checks into and a house you bought together. The family home you both contribute to and anything you buy using a joint bank account are both examples of marital property. All marital property, including, purchases, investments, debts and accounts you acquire during marriage, is subject to division in divorce courts across Alabama.

However, if you’re planning to sell the family home and split the profits in half, this wouldn’t line up with equitable distribution rules that guide property division. Through equitable distribution, all marital property is divvyed up in a way that is fair. And fair doesn’t always equate to equal. Rather, a judge might view how much time, energy and money each party put into the household and divide the assets based on that. They might also consider how much of a helping hand each party will need, financially, once the couple legally parts ways.

Separate property

On the other hand, separate property that each spouse has will not be subject to division through the divorce process. The assets you entered your marriage with and obtained prior to your wedding day are known as separate property. For example, maybe you have a collection of vintage art pieces hanging up in the family home that you bought to fill your previous home while you were single. There shouldn’t be much of an argument of who gets to keep them if you had them before your relationship was legally solidified. And if the art pieces where handed down to you from a family member or a gift you received during your marriage, then they also fall under the separate property category.

It can be unclear about what you must give up and what you get to keep through divorce. But leaning on legal aid can get you closer to the settlement award that you truly deserve.