When you and your spouse divorce, one of the most contentious issues can be the division of property. You need to understand the laws about marital property to protect your interests.

Arkansas operates under a system of equitable division of property. This is not, despite the terminology, a 50-50 split of property. You also have the option of reaching an agreement on your own, although it is subject to court approval.

What equitable division means

The court decides how to divide your assets based on a manner that is fair to both you and your spouse. The court makes settlements on a case-by-case basis because circumstances vary.

For example, instead of pursuing a career, you handled most of the domestic tasks. You were responsible for maintaining the household and day-to-day care of the children. You will have a more difficult time making a living after a divorce. The court can award you a larger share of marital property so you can maintain your way of life.

What other factors come into play

Courts consider many factors when deciding on the division of marital property. These range from the length of the marriage to tax implications for you and your spouse.

Courts will weigh occupations and other sources of income. They consider vocational skills and employability. A judge looks at the age and health of you and your spouse. Child and spousal custody costs, and the liabilities and needs of each party, also are factors.

The court also will consider negative behavior. Gambling debts, spousal abuse and extramarital affairs weigh against a spouse.

What you need to do

On a personal level, be on your best behavior. The divorce and division process is emotional and can be traumatic. Be congenial and cooperative. This can help the court settle your issues more quickly and with less drama.

Conduct your own research. Know all the details about your marital finances, and learn how the laws apply to your case. Do not be afraid to ask questions or seek assistance. Protect your future.