What Does “Equitable Distribution” Mean in a Tennessee Divorce?

The prospect of going through a divorce can be frightening for numerous reasons. Along with all of the emotional upheaval a divorce typically causes, studies consistently show that a divorce changes the financial picture for both parties as well. Usually, one party ends up financially better off post-divorce while the other party ends up noticeably less financially secure after the divorce. In the absence of an agreement between the parties, a Tennessee court is charged with creating an “equitable distribution” of the marital assets in a divorce. To help you understand what that means, a Murfreesboro divorce attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains the concept of equitable distribution in a Tennessee divorce.

What Assets Are Divided in a Tennessee Divorce?

Before you get to the “equitable distribution” part of a divorce, you need to know what assets are subject to division. In Tennessee, only marital property is subject to division in a divorce. Tennessee Code Section 36-4-121 defines marital property as follows: 

“Marital property means all real and personal property, both tangible and intangible, acquired by either or both spouses during the course of the marriage up to the date of the final divorce hearing and owned by either or both spouses as of the date of filing of a complaint for divorce, except in the case of fraudulent conveyance in anticipation of filing, and including any property to which a right was acquired up to the date of the final divorce hearing, and valued as of a date as near as reasonably possible to the final divorce hearing date. . .”

Separate property, on the other hand, is not subject to division in a Tennessee divorce, meaning that the owner of the property retains the property after the divorce. Separate property is defined as:

  • All real and personal property owned by a spouse before the marriage; 
  • Property acquired in exchange for property a spouse acquired before the marriage; 
  • Income from property (for example, rent) and appreciation of property (increase in value) owned by a spouse before marriage, except when characterized as marital property; 
  • Property acquired by a spouse at any time by gift, bequest, devise, or descent (inheritance); 
  • If a spouse suffers a personal injury or is the victim of a crime, then pain and suffering awards, victim of crime compensation awards, future medical expenses, and future lost wages; and 
  • Property acquired by a spouse after an order of legal separation where the court has made a final disposition of property.

Understanding “Equitable Distribution”

The important thing to understand about the concept of “equitable distribution” is that it does not mandate an equal distribution of marital property. All relevant factors being equal, a judge might order an equal distribution of marital assets in a divorce; however, all relevant factors are rarely equal. As such, a judge is only required to order a fair division of marital assets in a divorce. Consider the numerous factors a judge is allowed to consider when deciding how marital assets are to be distributed in a Tennessee divorce:

  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age, physical and mental health, vocational skills, employability, earning capacity, estate, financial liabilities, and financial needs of each of the parties.
  • The tangible or intangible contribution by one (1) party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party.
  • The relative ability of each party for future acquisitions of capital assets and income.
  • The contribution of each party to the acquisition, preservation, appreciation, depreciation or dissipation of the marital or separate property, including the contribution of a party to the marriage as homemaker, wage earner or parent, with the contribution of a party as homemaker or wage earner to be given the same weight if each party has fulfilled its role. (Who contributed more, who performed marital role more, and why)
  • The value of the separate property of each party.
  • The estate of each party at the time of the marriage.
  • The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective.
  • The tax consequences to each party, costs associated with the reasonably foreseeable sale of the asset, and other reasonably foreseeable expenses associated with the asset.
  • The amount of social security benefits available to each spouse.
  • When deciding who retains possession of the marital residence special consideration may be given to a spouse having physical custody of a child or children of the marriage.
  • Other factors necessary to consider the equities between the parties.

Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Attorney 

If you have additional questions about divorce in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce attorney as soon as possible. Contact the team at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.