1. Are prenuptial agreements enforceable? If done properly, prenuptial agreements are binding and enforceable.
  2. What is marital property? Marital property is defined as any property acquired during the marriage unless: (a) the property was acquired by one spouse by bequest or by gift; (b) the property was acquired by one spouse in exchange for property acquired prior to the marriage; (c) the property was excluded by valid agreement of the parties; and/or (d) it is an increase in value of property that was acquired prior to the marriage. Gifts between spouses are considered marital property.
  3. Are marital assets/debts divided equally? Not necessarily. Marital assets and debts are divided “equitably.” To determine what constitutes an equitable division the Family Court considers 11 specifically enumerated factors, such as the age and health of the parties and the contribution of each party to the growth or dissipation of the marital estate.
  4. Who is eligible for alimony? Alimony may be awarded to a dependent spouse. A dependent spouse is one who cannot support themselves with their own assets. If eligible, alimony may be awarded for a time period up to one half the length of the marriage, unless the marriage lasted 20 years or more. In that case, there is no time limit to eligibility.
  5. How are pensions divided? Typically, pension benefits acquired during the marriage are equally divided through a qualified domestic relations order. If survivor benefits or cost of living increases are available they may be included in the division as well.
  6. How is personal property divided? When parties cannot agree on how to divide their personal property the Family Court uses the “two list method.” One party itemizes the marital property in the house and divides it into two lists. Those lists are given to the other party. The list recipient selects a list and keeps everything on the list. The list maker retains all the property on the unselected list.
  7. Who gets the house? If the house is marital property the short answer is, it depends. It may depend on which party can afford to keep the house. Or, if there are children of the marriage, the Family Court may consider the desirability of awarding the house to the party with whom the children primarily live.
  8. Can a party sell or transfer property during the divorce? Once a petition for divorce is filed and served a preliminary injunction goes into effect. The injunction prohibits the parties from transferring, encumbering, concealing or disposing of marital property without the permission of the other party or the permission of the court, except in the ordinary course of business.
  9. Are parents obligated to pay for private school? If parents have sufficient financial resources, private school tuition may be included in child support if: i) the parents previously agreed to pay for their child’s attendance in private school; or (ii) the child has special needs that cannot be accommodated in a public school setting; or (iii) immediate family history indicates that the child likely would have attended private or parochial school but for the parties’ separation.
  10. Are parents obligated to pay for college? A parent’s obligation to provide support terminates when a child has reached age 18 and is no longer in high school, or 19, whichever occurs first. There is, therefore, no obligation for a parent to pay college tuition. For this and other reasons many couples utilize 529 accounts to save for college. These accounts, which are generally held in the name of one parent, are typically considered to be marital property that may be divided in a divorce.