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Property Settlement: Understanding the Terms

Never accept a settlement until you are absolutely sure you understand the agreement as written or placed on the court record. Property settlements cannot be changed, except in cases of fraud, clerical error, mistake, or gross unfairness at the initial trial.

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Generally, property is divided 50/50 between the spouses. However, the fault of one spouse may bring about a different division.

If the parties cannot agree, a settlement is reached after negotiations with court-appointed personnel. The judge can appoint a mediator, the Friend of the Court, or an assistant to help with the negotiations. If the appointed personnel aren’t successful in reaching a settlement, the judge will make the decision.

If your property includes retirement or pension plans, ask your attorney or financial advisor to explain your rights in dividing them.

There are special rules for property owned before the marriage, property inherited by one spouse, or property received as a gift by one spouse. Discuss such situations with your attorney.

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