Property in an Alabama Divorce

Alabama is an equitable distribution state, meaning if the parties cannot decide how to divide the marital property, the court will distribute it “equitably”.  This means the court will get to decide who gets what.   In preparing for a divorce trial or divorce settlement negotiation, the divorce attorneys at Parkman White, LLP suggest taking an inventory of all assets and liabilities of the marriage.  These assets and liabilities typically fall into several different categories, joint asset accounts, joint debt accounts, personal property, real property, and intellectual property.

Personal Property

Personal property is defined as property that is moveable and not affixed to real estate.  This category covers everything from jewelry, furniture, vehicles, cookware, clothing, and more.   In some circumstances, the distribution of personal property can be easy.  One example of an easy decision for the distribution of personal property is that each spouse gets to keep their own clothing.  However, it can get more difficult on other items.  Fights often occur over expensive jewelry that was in the husband’s family for many years, and then given to the wife.  Similar fights may occur over expensive pieces of art or furniture.

Our divorce attorneys at Parkman White, LLP can assist you in inventorying your marital personal property and making a strategy to be able to keep those items you really want.

Real Property

Real Property consists of land, and the buildings that are attached to the land.  Inventory of real property is usually fairly simple in a divorce, but division of real property can be complicated.  Most real estate is encumbered with debt and that debt must be paid if the property is going to be kept by one of the parties.  If the property is going to be sold, a determination must be made as to how much of the equity each party should retain.

Disputes often arise over who gets to hire the listing agent for real property sold during a divorce, and what constitutes a fair price for the sale of the real estate.   If debt exists on the property, the spouse who is paying the debt is usually much more motivated to sell the property than the non paying spouse, who is more interested in maximizing the sales price.

Issues can also arise as to actual ownership of the real property.  In some cases, only one spouse’s name appears on the actual deed of the property.  However, that does not mean that the other spouse is not entitled to some ownership of the property.   This is particularly true when it comes to the marital home.   Even if one spouse is the sole owner of the marital home according to the deed, Alabama divorce law allows the other spouse to claim ownership to that property as a marital right.

Our Birmingham attorneys at Parkman White, LLP can help you with your real property questions as you are going through a divorce.  Contact us to assist you in determining your rights to the real property owned by you and your spouse.

Intellectual property

Another type of property that couple’s need to consider when divorcing is whether there is any intellectual property in the marriage.  Intellectual property typically consists of intangible rights such as copyrights, patents, trade names, customer lists, and the like.  These rights are often owned by family businesses, and the ownership of these rights is essential to the business continuing as an ongoing entity.

These intellectual property rights are often more valuable than any real estate or personal property and should be considered when determining an equitable division of property.  If one party keeps the family business, it would usually mean that party also gets the associated intellectual property.

If you have any questions about intellectual property rights during a divorce, contact our Birmingham divorce attorneys at Parkman White, LLP for a consultation.  We can be reached at 205-502-2000.