If you married before you accuired anything.
Every case is different.
Anyrhing you comingled. If you co mingled your 10 million or any assets.
You grt the drift......i hope ...do you want to argue the tiny points some more?
It might be quite different outside the US. Within the US, each state's laws discuss it differently. And not all states officially recognize "marital assets". However, from what I've read, most states, in practice act as if "marital assets" is the method of evaluation.
Individual assets are not the primary focus - it's net worth of each individual. So, if an individual had acquired nothing prior to marriage (a very rare condition - people tend to be net positive or net negative, but having net worth = zero means that you have debt exactly equal to the sum marketable total value of your clothing, car, kitchenware, etc), then the equation still holds.
Comingling does not change typical family court's desires to split marital assets 50/50...but it might make it difficult to do so.
If a couple needs to figure this out, then they can do so without an attorney. Gather your documentation and see if you can create an obvious trail showing who owned what assets before marriage. Watch for those comingling cases. For instance, if she owned a house before, then they married and since he earned more, they chose to have him work and her stay at home, then he took over the mortgage payments. He might think those mortgage payments should be summed up, and called an increase in marital assets - because they went to the house. However, most of those payments paid for mortgage interest. Interest accrued while they were married, therefore, it was an expense shared 50/50. In the end, perhaps only 5% of the payments he made actually added equity to the house. So, although he put $1200/month into that house for 5 years, he will only "get back" $150 in added equity. This is what frustrates people, but the math is correct.
It's much harder if the "large" expenses paid by one person leave little or no obvious added fiscal value. House repairs are expensive, but are not perceived as adding value to the house...that is, it's hard to sell a house if a repair is required, so you do them to make it saleable, not to increase how much you get for it. From the cases I've read, a court will agree that an upgrade you did to a house increased its value only if the jurisdiction to which you pay property taxes agreed and in fact, increased the assessment and property tax levels.
So, yes, there are things that complicate the process. And in the case of comingling, a court may decide that the effort required to sort out the threads of who actually had which value prior to marriage is too difficult to be worth doing.
But the fundamental objective remains the same.
Sadly, it can work against those who are responsible, but naive.
In the early 90s, a co-worker of mine was going through a divorce. She was happy to have no career ambition and worked as a "go fer" for us, at about 25% over minimum wage. Her husband was some sort of near-savant level engineer in the crazy world of rock and roll synthesizers/keyboards and special effects - an equipment designer. One day he decided he was a woman in a man's body, they saw counselors for six months and both decided splitting was best for both of them and the daughter who never saw dad anyway.
But when all the financial discovery stuff came out - ho boy. Before the marriage, she had $20,000 in savings and a one year old Honda, very modest furniture in her apartment and a large room full of crafting supplies. She never balanced her checkbook, but just paid bills and when she noticed a lot of money in checking, she moved some into savings. Together, they bought a house and he set up a lab and upgraded equipment over and over. Turns out he would periodically refinance the house to buy his next round of tech goodies - and tech goodies, two years later, are worth nothing because the next generation does more and costs less. And he borrowed lots...but at his income, was always able to make the payments.
So, on the day they started looking at their finances, it turned out they went into it with:
Her - approx $25,000 total assets
He - approx $15,000 net debt
Upon assessing marital assets the first time, it seemed that:
House, value $80,000
Mortgage debt $120,000
Two cars worth no more than the loans on them
His lines of credit at $95,000 debt, maxxed out
His gear $20,000
Her simple possessions essentially without market value
So, at this point, the total net worth of the two combined was negative $115,000
Each person, therefore would "share" $57500 in debt when they divorced.
In his case, he'd add his pre-existing $15k and owe $72,500 total
She would take the $57500 and add her pre-existing $25,000 and owe $32,500.
To her, that $32.5k debt was astronomical...she didn't think of numbers that big! Remember this was the 1990s, not today. Her income of $14,000 would have been adequate for her lifestyle if she rented a small apartment with the daughter, but saddled with that much debt!!!
The way the court worked it out included giving her the house, and requiring him to secure financing to pay off the mortgage, so the house could be in her name free and clear. This unbalanced the equation - now his debt leaving the marriage was far more than hers...so to compensate for that, he did not have to pay either child support or alimony.
So, she got - a house. And that was no gift.
It took a team of a dozen of us a year to make that house sale-worthy. It had been purchased cheaply because it was in an undesirable area and not in very good shape. We carefully assessed "reasonable" for the neighborhood which thankfully had started becoming gentrified. All we did constituted repairs, she insisted on paying for materials, which were about $15,000. The house sold for that $80k, but before we descended upon it, it was unsellable - literally - too many code violations.
So she was then 45, no noteworthy assets, no noteworthy education and a child 4 years away from college.
I don't know how she resolved things eventually, because the next year, she and child moved to Florida to be with her parents as they entered their final years. I think the family had money, and she was an only child, so it probably worked out.
I saw a couple of 'morals' to her story...
- If you plan to live the kind of life that requires money - don't ignore money. Attempt to evaluate your net worth at least once a year
- Make sure both spouses are aware of the couplehood's income, spending, and debt
- Make sure there IS a financial goal (e.g. save $30,000 for the kids college by 2021) and when you do the annual review, check progress toward that
- Avoid debt like the plague.
- Know your spouse!!! Hard to imagine having been married 15 years and not noticing that your spouse believed they were mis-gendered at birth.
- I hate to say this, but unless you know you have the world's most perfect marriage, stay aware of how divorces tend to work, so that you have at least an inkling of an idea of what to do to prepare and survive one.
IMO, understanding the fundamental methods of how courts approach marital assets is not a tiny point - it's the starting point, from which all else derives, for D.
As it turns out, I had been operating on a very different divorce plan, but didn't even know it. I struggle with organization and completing things - I'm told I have ADHD. As with many others with ADHD, I am blessed with excess amounts of IQ points. My rate of "saves" at the last minute is quite high...although I didn't know this until after my split. When I was 40 and with no net worth and realized that retirement was now much closer than when I started working, I decided it was time to learn how to invest. Took little time to find methods of trading that multiplied nicely, and learned that the key to success isn't a good trading formula, but being so conservative that even if a deal goes bad, it can't hurt much...preservation. I didn't like doing it, but I did it enough years to build up a net worth that, if not abused, will see me well into retirement.
So, one possible "plan" is to be so open-minded that you're willing to learn whatever it takes to recover.