The answer to this question depends upon how the property is titled, and the nature of the property itself. For example, real estate in which the family resided during the marriage, which is often referred to as the “marital” or “family” home, if titled in both parties’ names is typically either sold and the net proceeds of sale are divided, or one spouse will purchase the other spouse’s interest in the home and the title is transferred to the purchasing spouse. If minor children would benefit from continuing to reside in the family home following the divorce, often because of school districting, the primary custodial parent may have use and possession of the family home for a certain number of months, or years (typically no more than three years) to benefit the children. At the end of the use and possession period, the house would either be sold or purchased by one spouse. Other types of property, such as financial non-retirement accounts, may either be divided and closed if jointly titled, or if titled in the individual names of each spouse, there may be an accounting made and a transfer of a monetary award from one spouse to the other to equitably divide the parties’ savings accumulated during the marriage. Retirement assets will be compared, and if equitable, a transfer of a monetary award from one spouse’s retirement funds into an individual retirement account in the name of the other spouse may occur to equitably distribute retirement accounts accumulated during the parties’ marriage. Defined benefit pensions which are vested during a marriage, but do not have actual cash available for division at the time of the divorce, may be resolved by entering a qualified domestic relations order which dictates that a certain percentage of the pension plan funds will be diverted to the former spouse at the time the employee retires and commences receiving pension benefits. Household items are difficult for the court to distribute, and so most couples try to reach an amicable agreement on their own regarding how to fairly distribute their belongings. If left to the Court, a trustee may be appointed to auction the contents and, after taking a trustee fee and paying the auctioneer, the small amount left would be divided between the parties.
The Court has limited power regarding debt distribution in a divorce. The debt is the legal responsibility for the person(s) who contracted to pay said debt. Rather than divide it, the court takes debt into consideration when dividing property in an equitable manner. For example, if one spouse carries a larger proportion of debt which was accumulated by the family during the marriage, the court may provide a larger proportion of property to said spouse to assist that spouse in satisfying the debt.