One of the most common claims non-lawyers throw around is that your ex will get half of your stuff in a divorce. This is rarely the case, but what can you expect?
Start with Your State's Laws
For a divorce lawyer, answering questions about the division of assets starts with figuring out what the state counts as a commonly held marital asset. There are two kinds of state systems when it comes to divorce and assets: common law and community property.
In a common-law state, the question of who owns which assets boils down to names on titles. When one person's name is on the title, the attached item is their property. If both names are on the title, then it's a 50-50 split. Absent a title, the two parties either have to negotiate or let a judge decide.
Community property states equally divide most property acquired during the marriage equally. However, the property you owned in your name before the marriage remains wholly yours. Likewise, gifts and inheritances acquired during the marriage are yours, too. Also, legal settlements belong solely to the recipient.
A prenup may override other legal claims about the assets. This is an agreement that asserts that specific types of property belong to one particular person. However, anything unspecified by the prenuptial agreement is subject to the usual state laws.
Note that you don't have to precisely follow the law if you and your ex-partner are willing to negotiate. It's perfectly fine to give and take during negotiations, and a divorce attorney will encourage it. For example, you might not like the dog, and you just want to give it to your ex.
Also, it's common to trade assets for various reasons. Perhaps one partner wants the house more than the other does. In exchange for an adjusted support obligation, the other partner might opt to give up their claim on the house.
Hard-bargaining types will also sometimes use assets as leverage. For example, wedding rings are almost always legally classified as gifts. If the ring came from your ex's grandmother and is a beloved heirloom in your ex's family, you might ask for something in exchange for relinquishing the ring.
If you can't negotiate a settlement, the court will impose its judgment. When there is a dispute about the facts, such as who has the title to a vehicle, the judge will examine the evidence and rule at a hearing. The judge may also send a court-appointed officer to conduct conferences and resolve matters without factual disputes. Usually, the judge follows the officer's opinion.
For more information, contact a local divorce attorney.