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How property is divided in divorce

Divorcing couples in Hawaii might approach the issue of property division with some confusion about how the law decides which spouse gets what. Though some states divide marital property equally on the basis of community property law, Hawaii uses the legal theory of equitable property division. While community property states divide property in a 50-50 split, equitable division means a fair division that is not necessarily equal.

Judges weigh many factors into the decisions of property division. Formulas are used and include each spouse's income and other numbers, but judges also weigh arguments and consider factors that are more personal. In an equitable division state, there is more room for individual considerations since the division is not required to be mathematically equal.

Property itself falls into several different categories. Real property, or real estate, includes the family home, any business property, vacation homes, undeveloped land or rental property owned. Personal property includes furnishings, clothing, jewelry, cars, campers, computers, collectibles, artwork and other types of personal items.

Financial assets include bank accounts, cash on hand, stocks, mutual funds, pensions, retirement plans, life insurance policies, certificates of deposit, trusts, annuities and more. In addition to dividing assets, the court may also require that a couple divide their debts and liabilities like credit card balances, mortgage payments and other outstanding bills. Any business assets owned will also be divided.

Divorcing spouses who agree on property division can usually have their desires met by law as long as the division chosen by the spouses is equitable under the law. Hawaii's equitable division law views marriage as a partnership like a business partnership, and it follows commercial partnership law in making sure that marital property, assets and liabilities are divided equitably.

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