In some ways, dividing the marital property during an Arkansas divorce is like reading the gas meter. You had a certain number before you started, so you just measure how much the meter has moved and that’s what’s in the marital estate. Short version: stuff you owned before marriage is yours. Stuff you got while you were married is marital property.
It is pretty straightforward to know what day the meter started running: The date of marriage.
The second question is figuring out whether specific types of property qualify as marital property under Arkansas law. If not, they get excluded, which means they don’t move the meter. Things like an inheritance, gifts from people outside the marriage, and businesses owned before getting married don’t move the meter. These are obviously the sort of issues that Arkansas divorce lawyers spend their time fighting about.
The third question is when the meter should stop running. Because most divorces take several months and many take multiple years, many people assume that one stops accumulating marital property after the divorce is filed.
The reality is that all the parties’ earnings that are not otherwise excluded (inheritance, etc.) continue to increase the marital estate until the divorce is finalized. If the parties file for divorce on January 1 and the stock market goes up by 20% that year, the marital estate will include the increase and the other spouse will get half of the windfall. The same applies if the parties file for divorce and something were to cause the marital estate to lose a significant amount of value: the valuation comes at the date of divorce.
If you’re thinking about getting divorced, but you’re worried about your spouse getting your stuff in the divorce, don’t worry. Give us a call instead. We have a ton of experience with property division in divorce. Let us figure it out for you.