The court uses a four-step process to determine how property is divided between partners.
- Identify and value all of the assets and liabilities. This requires both partners to be forthcoming and disclose all of the necessary documents and certificates regarding property. A court will look unfavorably upon someone who is not honest at this stage.
- Evaluate the contributions each partner made to the asset pool. This includes both financial contributions, such as salary and wages and indirect financial contributions, like gifts or property, like a home, acquired through an inheritance. The court will also consider non-financial contributions, such as taking care of the home and the children.
- Consider the future needs of each partner. The court will take into consideration the health, age, education and earning capacity of each partner. One partner may have stayed at home to care for the children for the last 10 years, enabling the other partner to develop professionally and earn a higher income. These factors need to be considered when deciding who gets which property.
- Provide a “just and equitable” division of the property. The law does not require that the distribution of property be equal, only that it be fair. For example, the court may determine that since the mother will be taking care of the couple’s five young children, she should keep the marital home.