How to Divide Assets in a Divorce

Updated November 21, 2016

Whether you have lots of assets or just a few, you will have to divide them when you get a divorce. You will also have to divide your liabilities. This article will cover both, as you can use assets to eliminate liabilities.

One of the first things you will be asked to do in your divorce is to fill out a financial affidavit. The financial affidavit will ask you to state all your assets and liabilities. From it, your attorney--or you, if you are pro se (representing yourself)--will make an equitable distribution worksheet. An equitable distribution worksheet is a spreadsheet that shows all of your assets and liabilities and how they are going to be divided between you and your spouse.

Your assets and liabilities could be divided in such a way that you each will get 50 per cent of all your assets and liabilities. If one spouse earns considerably more than the other, the split may be skewed so that the distribution of marital funds is more equal. There are no set numbers for how your assets and liabilities are split. It could be 60/40, 70/30 or even 75/25.

If at all possible, no matter what differences you have with your spouse, you should both sit down and try to work this out. You may not like what the court will order: It has a great deal of discretion when dealing with alimony and assets.

Make a four-column table with your assets listed in the left-hand column. In Column Two, write down what each asset is worth. Title Column Three "Husband" and column four "Wife".

Skip two or three lines from the last asset you enter. Enter your liabilities in the left-hand column. In Column Two, write down the current balance of that liability.

For whichever asset you decide to take, you will also have to take the liability along with it. In some special circumstances, in which there may be a lot of alimony or special equity, your spouse may pay the liability. But generally, if you take the asset, you get the liability.

If you have retirement accounts, you will want to divide the accounts that are easiest to divide. Some accounts will require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). If at all possible, try to balance the equitable distribution worksheet so that the person who owns that account keeps it. This will save you money down the road, as you must pay a professional to draft a QDRO.

Put the amount equal to half the value of the asset in the husband’s column, and half in the wife’s column. If the wife is going to keep the house, change the value in her column to 100 per cent of the house, and change the value for the mortgage in her column to 100 per cent of the mortgage. The equity is the amount you are concerned with. In the example, the equity is £32,500.

Take an asset and put it in the husband’s column. Does the husband have £32,500 worth in his column? Don't forget to subtract the liabilities.

When you are done, if you are working on a 50/50 model, the numbers at the bottom of the worksheet should be pretty close. If not, the party with the higher net value will pay the other party an equalisation payment. Take the difference of the assets for the husband and the assets for the wife and divide that number by two. The party who has more assets will pay the other party that amount.

You can also have the person who ended up with more of the assets take an additional liability. Check your liability list and see if there is a credit card or other liability that is close to the equalising number. Move this amount into the column of the party with the higher net value.


If you have any retirement accounts, before you plunk down your hard-earned money for a retainer, ask the attorney if he regularly drafts QDROs.

Move assets and liabilities around until you both have an equal net value. If you cannot move anything else around, then the party with the higher net value pays an equalising payment to the party with the lower net value.


If your state is not a “no-fault” state, assets and liabilities may be divvied up in a different manner. You should always see an attorney for legal advice.

This article is not intended as legal advice. I am not an attorney, and cannot give legal advice.

Things You'll Need

  • List of assets and liabilities, or financial affidavit
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About the Author

Cayden Conor has been writing since 1996. She has been published on several websites and in the winter 1996 issue of "QECE." Conor specializes in home and garden, dogs, legal, automotive and business subjects, with years of hands-on experience in these areas. She has an Associate of Science (paralegal) from Manchester Community College and studied computer science, criminology and education at University of Tampa.