States with equitable distribution laws such as North Dakota require divorcing couples to divide their marital property fairly. During a traditional court procedure, a judge may sign off on a divorce decree after two attorneys show the parties reached an agreement on a fair split.
A dispute concerning what represents fairness could turn divorce into a lengthy legal challenge. Couples may, however, turn to mediation or collaborative law to avoid conflicts, as described on the State of North Dakota Courts website. The out-of-court procedure generally allows couples to negotiate their property split through a mediator.
How marital and separate assets differ
When agreeing on dividing their marital assets fairly, some couples choose to sell them and split the proceeds. Separate property, which includes gifts, inheritances and assets owned before the marriage, does not generally require division. Income earned by each spouse before the marriage may also reflect separate property.
Separate assets may, however, become part of a couple’s marital property by mixing a spouse’s separate money into a joint bank account. As noted by Forbes, bank statements or tax returns may prove whether separate assets commingled with marital property and require dividing.
When to choose mediation over a court procedure
Psychology Today notes that two divorcing spouses may become burdened by stress when discussing personal issues. A mediator may help to resolve issues such as child custody or keeping a marital home during emotionally-charged sessions.
Instead of dividing property fairly under a standard courtroom division, mediation involves two soon-to-be ex-spouses discussing their ownership of meaningful property. Once two parties sign an agreement to resolve their issues through collaborative law, the court does not intervene. A judge must, however, sign the final settlement agreement.