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Family law: Five not-so-obvious property division issues

When couples begin the divorce process, they often think broadly in terms of marital property division. The most obvious asset to divide is the family home. Next would be any joint bank accounts, savings accounts and the family vehicles.

Most couples stop there, at least initially. However, there are several less obvious items that need to be properly accounted for and divided equitably. Here are five of them.

1. Investments, retirement accounts and other financial assets

Pension plans, 401(k) accounts, IRAs or CDs, stock options, dividends, life insurance policies or employer-provided deferred compensation plans are all possibly subject to property division. Retirement accounts are especially important, because one spouse may have given up full-time employment when the children came along. He or she may have been counting on the family's shared savings for their retirement.

2. Marital debt

Many people overlook this side of marital property division initially. Dividing marital debt is treated in exactly the same way as dividing marital assets. Each person will be responsible for paying off a portion of the couple's accrued debts. Mortgage debt is the most obvious, but other debts include:

· Car loans

· Credit card debts

· Home equity lines of credit

· Personal loans

· Student loans

· Tax debt

Who takes responsibility for what is largely up for debate, and often one of the most contested areas of property division.

3. Luxury items and personal collections

Boats, Jet Skis, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, works of art, vintage wines, antiques, coin collections, comic books, Elvis memorabilia, Beanie Babies - the list is virtually endless when it comes to these not-so-obvious assets. Perhaps only one of you collects, but any property bought during the marriage could be subject to division.

4. Memberships

Many people today have gym memberships (whether they use them regularly is a different story), and some belong to exclusive country clubs or golf clubs. If marital funds were used to join such clubs and pay the annual fees, then they could be up for discussion, especially if one spouse enjoyed access as the guest of the other.

5. Travel rewards and other "point-based" benefit programs

If both of you accumulate or make use of shared frequent flier miles or other such reward programs, they should be discussed as part of your property division settlement.

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