Divorce Marital Assets

How are marital assets divided in a divorce?

Though they’re not uncommon, divorces can be difficult to navigate. Divorce can be a stressful time, fraught with difficult considerations and confusing situations. Individuals going through a divorce often have to consider complicated matters such as child custody arrangements, spousal support, and division of assets.

Dividing assets can be particularly confusing. In Tennessee, the division of assets works a little differently than in some other states. So-called marital assets, assets that were acquired in the duration of the marriage in focus, are not always divided evenly. Rather, there are a few factors that will determine how assets are divided between divorcing former spouses, and the court will attempt to distribute them in a fair and equitable manner.

Tennessee is an example of a state that takes an “equitable distribution” approach to the division of assets in a divorce, as opposed to a “community property” approach. This means that rather than distributing assets right down the middle–50/50, the court will generally attempt to divide assets based on various factors which aim to inform an equitable division.

How does equitable distribution work?

While in some states, assets that were acquired during the marriage–or marital assets–may be divided evenly between the parties in a divorce, in Tennessee and other states that take the approach of equitable distribution, assets are divided based on various factors aimed at making the division as equitable as possible. The court will generally aim to equitably distribute assets as best they can based on factors outlined in Tennessee’s legal code under Title 36.

These may include but are not limited to:

  • The duration of the marriage,
  • The employability of each party,
  • The value of the separate property,
  • And more.

In other words, rather than simply dividing property right down the middle, the court will try to divide them as fairly as possible based on predefined factors that Tennessee’s legal code outlines.

What’s more, if necessary, the court may order the sale of certain assets in order to divide the value between the two parties. Additionally, the court also may award the family home and household effects–or the right to live in it to one of the parties, but will also take into consideration which party has custody of any children.

What are marital assets?

Under Tennessee law, “marital assets” are essentially the assets that individuals in a marriage acquire during the marriage–with a few exceptions. This time period begins at the time of the wedding and ends at the time of divorce being filed. Property acquired after the time of decree of legal separation generally does not apply–nor does property acquired before the marriage. Rather, property that is acquired before or after the marriage will generally be considered separate property.


Assets can be nearly anything of value. For example, marital assets can include cars, homes, and much more.

When is the value of marital assets determined?

Importantly, Tennessee law dictates that marital property–which will be subject to division in the event of a divorce–is to be valued as “as of a date as near as possible to the date of entry of the order finally dividing the marital property.” (TN Code § 36-4-121 [2021]) This means that assets will be valued as near as possible to the final division of property. Some assets may be relatively simple to value–such as stocks–though others may be contested or more difficult to value. In such cases, it may be necessary to have assets appraised by an expert.

What is separate property?

Separate property, as the name suggests, is separate property that individuals navigating a divorce acquired either before they were married or after the final divorce hearing date. Separate property is treated differently than marital assets and is not, generally, subject to division. This can include fringe benefits gained from employment before the marriage, as well as any appreciation they’ve experienced. However, separate property can still play a role in how marital property is divided. For example, one of the factors that the court will consider when dividing marital assets is the value of the separate property of each party. So, the value of separate property can have an influence on the division of marital property.

Do grounds for divorce affect the division of property?

The short answer to this is, for the most part, no. While the court will generally consider a range of factors, as outlined in Tennessee code Title 36, to determine what is a fair division of assets, none of those considerations happen to include the grounds for divorce.

When should you seek a divorce or family attorney?

If you’re dealing with a divorce, you might be wondering when it’s time to call a lawyer. The truth is, whether or not you choose to seek legal representation and advice is up to you. However, an experienced divorce or family lawyer in Tennessee will be able to help you better understand the law and how it may apply to you and your case. Importantly, an experienced attorney will also be able to represent you in court and work to seek favorable outcomes in your best interest. They can act as your advocate and advisor and help you better navigate this sometimes confusing process.

The Bottom Line

Divorce happens. It can be a challenging and stressful time for everyone involved, and divorce cases can quickly become complex. Division of marital assets can be one of the more tough parts of a divorce to navigate.

In Tennessee, assets are divided under the principle of equitable distribution rather than that of community property. This means that the division of assets can be based on a number of factors. The court will attempt to divide assets in a manner that’s as fair and reasonable as possible, based on the factors to consider outlined in Tennessee’s legal code. These include but are not limited to the duration of the marriage, the value of the separate property,  the employability of each party, the economic circumstances of each party, and more.

Though the process can be complex and even confusing, remember that if you’re going through a divorce, you don’t need to navigate this situation alone. At the Law Office of J Ryan Johnson, we have the experience, expertise, and drive to help you fight for your rights. Divorce can be stressful, confusing, and downright unpleasant. We understand that, and our goal is to help you get through your case successfully while fighting for your rights. Don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a meeting today.

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