How are property and debts divided in a divorce?

Nevada is a community property state. In a community property state, there is a presumption that all property and all debts earned or incurred during marriage are community. Therefore, each party would be entitled to one-half of the assets, and would be responsible for one-half of the debts.

A presumption of law means that anyone who doesn’t want certain property or certain debts to be deemed community has the burden of proving to the court why this should be so. There are exceptions to the general community property principle that everything obtained during the marriage is community.

An example would be an inheritance. Let’s say your spouse’s father dies and leaves an inheritance of $100,000. That inheritance would typically not be deemed community property, even though it was received during the course of the marriage.

If the inheriting spouse can prove that the inheritance was intended for him or her alone and there was never commingling of the funds, that $100,000 would be exempted from the general rule of splitting the money equally between parties.

However, if one receives property and then co-mingles those funds (for example, puts the funds in a joint bank account), that person runs the risk that his or her separate property money would be considered as community.

When the court divides assets, it doesn’t equally divide every item of property. For example, common sense would tell you that the court would not order the living room couch sawed in two pieces with each party receiving one-half of the couch.

Rather, courts use what is called equalization. The couch may be worth $1,000.00, and, if for example, there is also a television worth $1,000.00, the court could then order one party to take the couch and the other party to take the television, as they have a roughly equal value.

In Nevada, it is common for the court to order one party to draft what is called an “A-B” list. That is, one party lists all community assets under two columns, one called “A” and one called “B”. After the list is completed, the other party, that is, the one who didn’t draw up the list gets to decide whether he or she will take the items in column “A” or column “B”.

This motivates the party who is making the list to be fair, because that party doesn’t know whether the other party will choose “A” or “B. If the parties can agree to the division of property and debts, the court will usually sign off on the agreement.

As with all issues in court, any issues that are not resolved between the parties will be resolved by the judge.

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