Divorce mistakes: Part 2

Continuing our theme of common divorce mistakes we addressed not knowing the value of what you (currently) have. The second most often made mistake I encounter in my nearly 20 years of practice, is not knowing the value of what you had.

This most commonly occurs when one person comes into the marriage with something of value. I’m not talking about the VW Bug you had in college 30 years ago, but rather real property such as a house, land, rentals, office buildings, a business, or a large retirement or investment account. We see this occur more often in subsequent marriages or marriages that occurred later in life for one or both spouses. (Do I hear Pre-Nup?? — More on that later.)

Why does this matter? Because Idaho is a community property state and even though one person may have owned property prior to the marriage, the other spouse may be entitled to some value of that property if it increased in value (under certain circumstances).

This takes a little effort to calculate as the value at the time of marriage needs to be determined. If there is no property appraisal or some documented value of the property like retirement/investment account statements, or even a Prenuptial Agreement that lists the value of items/assets, it may still be ascertained by the help of some professionals in the area.

It also matters if one spouse contributes to the value of the other’s property, such as an addition to the home you owned individually before marriage. Contributions to one spouse’s separate property (“separate property” is what your property is considered before marriage) doesn’t necessarily mean you now both own it together, but it may entitle the contributing spouse to some value or reimbursement. Record keeping is key under these circumstances.

Again as in Divorce Mistakes — Part 1, knowledge is power, and if you can back that up with good record keeping practices you can lower both the cost and stress of a divorce. A future article will address good record keeping practices.


Call Merrilee A. Parr at (208) 667-1227. Ms. Parr has owned her own law practice in northern Idaho since 1997 after working in the Coeur d’Alene City Attorney’s office in the prosecutor’s office. She has extensive pre-legal experience, which includes working as a caseworker for Child Protective Services and a case manager for the Arizona Supreme Court (Foster Care Review Board).

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