Definition of Equitable Distribution

Several states are equitable distribution states, and property acquired during the marriage belongs to the spouse who earned it. If the couple chooses to divorce the court will determine how to divide the property in a fair and equitable way. The court may consider a variety of factors such as whether one spouse stayed home to rear children, the earning capacity of each spouse, and the current earnings of each spouse. Other factors such as the length of the marriage, the health of the spouses, the age of the spouses, dissipation of assets by the spouses, abuse or infidelity in the relationship and who will take care of the children after the divorce can also be factored into the court’s decision.

Equitable distribution property states differ from community property states. In community property states all assets and income earned during the marriage are considered the property of both spouses equally. All property acquired during the marriage with “community” money is also considered to be owned equally by both spouses regardless of who bought the property. Community property states also consider debts acquired in marriage to be owned equally by both spouses. This can include credit card debt, a home mortgage, and a car loan.

Community property states currently include Alaska (by agreement), Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

« Back to Glossary

Browse Divorce Terms Alphabetically

A |
C |
D |
E |
F |
G |
I |
J |
L |
M |
N |
O |
P |
Q |
S |
U |
V |