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Most Common Items that Are Disputed Over in a Divorce

Divorce is never easy. It is a highly emotional process that often involves fierce disputes over custody, child or spousal support, and asset division. These disputes can be highly contentious and may require the assistance of a lawyer. Some assets are more likely to be disputed than others.

As division of assets lawyers in Manhattan Beach, we’ve seen disputes over thousands of personal items, financial instruments, and other joint acquisitions at the Law Offices of Baden V. Mansfield. Of all the items our firm has helped equitably divide over the years, these are more commonly disputed than others.

Retirement Benefits

When you spend years of your life working, it can add up to a sizable retirement account so you can lead a comfortable life in the future. What workers earn prior to their marriage is untouchable in equitable divisions; however, contributions made during the divorce will be divided between both parties – even if one spouse never worked one day during the marriage. Same goes with 401k, investment accounts, Bitcoin, and other forms of trading and currency accounts.

It’s easy to see why so many refute dividing this asset since one or both spouses could lose thousands. When it comes to retirement money, fair and equitable won’t always mean equal.

Family Businesses

Family owned and operated businesses that were formed during the marriage will be split during divorce. And when income is good, it’s understandable why this asset is widely contested by both parties not willing to buy each other out, or sell the business and split the profit.

Even if family businesses formed prior to the divorce, any assets, equity, inventory, clients, and loose cash acquired during the marriage are divided fairly. In some cases, this could mean one spouse gets the building while the other gets the inventory, appreciation, goods, and customers.

Dividing businesses can get unbelievably complex, with multiple locations, employees and the business bank account being considered prior to division.

Bank Accounts

Bringing one’s bank account into a marriage means both spouses are granted access to funds deposited from the time the marriage license is filed. Money saved or stored in checking prior to the divorce will normally be spent without argument, unless an agreement is forged prior to marriage to the contrary.

When the marriage dissolution is filed, all hands go toward the money. It’s not uncommon for spouses to quickly withdraw and close out comingled bank accounts to spite the other. While scorned spouses may wish to watch their mate suffer, the judge ultimately decides what’s fair and equitable.

Separate bank accounts maintained during the marriage with personal funds, inheritances (not deposited in comingled accounts), gifts, and the appreciation of those items are generally off limits in divorces.

The Family Home

Perhaps the most disputed item in divorces is the family home. Unless one spouse alienated their marriage and cannot be located, expect both spouses to fight tooth and nail over the home where their children, memories, and amenities reside. Since it’s unreasonable to saw the home in half and give each spouse their share, a different formula will be used if children are involved.

The parent granted sole physical and legal custody generally receives preferential treatment when the family home is equitably divided, and rightly so; they’ll care for minor children, and need somewhere safe for them to reside.

Should both parents be granted equal physical and legal custody, the judge will again look at what’s been acquired during the marriage, what would be prudent for the children, whether one spouse could afford to buy the other out of their share, and so forth. The goal is fair and equitable division – not making one spouse’s life hell.

Homes in marriages without children are subject only to its appreciation during the marriage. However, homes purchased in the marriage will be subject to fair division as seen fit by the divorce court.


We see an incredible number of disputes over personal and business vehicles. Automobiles and other forms of transportation, regardless if for work or personal use, will go through the same equitable division process. Each spouse will choose an essential car or truck for their work and general use, with surplus automobiles being distributed equally or sold and profit-shared.

Antique cars and other vehicles brought into the marriage, along with those gifted to spouses, are generally left alone. Business vehicles acquired during the marriage will be divided as seen fit, while vehicles on loan from an employer will be left alone.

Minimizing Asset Disputes in Divorces

Unless extenuating circumstances exist that forced one spouse to dissolve their marriage, most divorces are filed due to irreconcilable differences that marriage counseling couldn’t fix. While emotions are undoubtedly turbulent during this stressful time, agreeing on fair asset division prior to meeting with your attorney may save weeks of calculations and extraneous headaches.

If one spouse will have primary custody of the children, leave them the home and the furniture in exchange for other items of value. Should more than one home exist, give each other a place to live and split the profits when any real estate beyond that sells. Cut the bank accounts in half. If you are having trouble coming to an agreement about how to divide assets, bring in attorneys or mediators to help. Agreeing before you go to court will save time, money, and stress. The longer divorces drag out, the longer it will take to begin the healing process.

The Law Firm of Baden V. Mansfield firm can assist in making the division of assets go smoothly. We’ll work with your ex-partner’s legal team, draft an agreement, and file it alongside the dissolution of marriage petition. Feel free to discuss your impending marriage dissolution and any potential issues with items acquired during the marriage. To learn more about how we can help protect your important assets during your divorce, contact us today by calling (310) 546-5858.

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