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Property And Debt Division

Practice Areas

Columbus Property and Debt Attorney

In every divorce or dissolution, the court must divide the property owned by the parties. Generally, some property will be distributed to the husband and some property will be distributed to the wife.


The term “property” refers to financial assets and legal rights that have some economic value. Typical examples of such assets include homes, cars, furniture, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Other examples include pensions, retirement plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), some life insurance policies and complex assets.

Complex Assets

Complex assets, such as interests in businesses and professional practices, are assets that are legally or financially complex. Other examples include sophisticated financial investments (stock options, limited partnerships, etc.), interests in estates and trusts, contract rights, intellectual property rights, tax and government benefits, and rights and interests in real estate located in other states and countries. Complex assets are discussed in detail on the Complex Asset Cases page.

Marital Property

Marital property is property acquired during the parties’ marriage and still owned at the time the marriage ends. Generally, marital property is acquired through the efforts of one or both parties. Property may be marital property even if the property’s title is in the name of only one party. Usually, when a marriage ends, the value of the marital property is divided equally between the parties.

Separate Property

Separate property is property that is not marital property. When a marriage is terminated, separate property is awarded to the owner and is not divided between the parties. Five primary types of separate property exist:

  • Property owned prior to the marriage
  • Property received as a gift
  • Property received as an inheritance
  • Property received as a personal injury award
  • Property addressed in a valid prenuptial agreement

Commingled Property

Commingled property is property that is part marital property and part separate property. Generally, commingled property is treated like marital property because it is divided equally between the parties. However, in some cases, the separate property component will be distributed solely to one party. For this to happen, the party seeking the property must “trace” the current separate property component back to the original item of separate property. The party must show some strong relationship between the current separate property component and the original item of separate property.


Normally, for every item of property, a dollar value must be determined. Some items are easy to value, such as bank accounts. The balance in a bank account is determined online or from the most current bank account statement. Other items are more difficult to value. For example, conflicts often arise regarding the value of real estate and interests in businesses and professional practices.

Property Division

When a marriage is terminated, a final court order will state what property is awarded to the husband and what property is awarded to the wife. A court order dividing property is final and cannot be modified.

Debt Division

A debt is a legal duty to pay money. Typical examples of debts include home loans (mortgages), car loans, home equity line-of-credit loans, and credit card debts. A debt can be classified as a marital debt or as a separate debt. Like property, the parties’ debts are divided when their marriage ends.

Financial Misconduct

If a court finds that a party has engaged in financial misconduct, the court may adjust the property- and debt-division to achieve a fair result. Various types of financial misconduct exist. For example, a party who wrongfully causes property to disappear or decrease in value has committed financial misconduct.

Success Stories

The DHS law firm attorneys have produced successful outcomes for many family law clients. Please click here to read about success stories that reflect various family law issues. Perhaps you will see your marital issues reflected in one or more of these brief stories.

Contact Us

Please contact DHS for a confidential consultation with attorney Dougherty or Hanneman or Snedaker. Each is an Ohio State Bar Association Certified Specialist in Family Relations Law. They are three of only 115 attorneys in Ohio who have earned this designation as of January 1, 2013. Less than one-half (1/2) of one (1) percent of all family relations attorneys registered in Ohio has achieved this status!

DHS is located in a safe, convenient northwest Columbus suburb with free on-site parking. The building is west of the intersection of Sawmill Road and Bethel Road. (Bethel Road becomes Hayden Road west of the Sawmill Road intersection.) The offices are in the classic redbrick Northwest Law Offices Building:

  • next to Bravo! Cucina Italiana Restaurant,
  • on the north side of Hayden Road, and
  • east of Riverside Drive (State Route 33).

Then turn onto Donnylane Boulevard from Hayden Road. Then turn right into the parking lot behind the building. The main entrance is at the rear of the building.