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Idaho Property Division
Property Distribution Laws in Idaho

In Idaho, the courts generally accept a fair and reasonable property division the parties agree to, but if the parties cannot agree, the District Court divides the marital estate within the Judgment of Divorce. Idaho is a community property state. It uses the dual property model, and the appreciation of separate property is separate. In a divorce, community property is generally divided equally between the spouses, while each spouse keeps his or her separate property. In order to make a decision about the division of assets and liabilities, the court considers all the facts of the case and the condition of the parties.

Factors in Community Property Distribution

According to Idaho Code - Title 32 - Chapters: 712, 903, [u]nless there are compelling reasons otherwise, there shall be a substantially equal division in value between the spouses.

Factors that may bear upon whether a division shall be equal, or the manner of division, include, but are not limited to:

  • duration of the marriage;
  • any antenuptial agreement of the parties; provided, however, that the court shall have no authority to amend or rescind any such agreement;
  • the age, health, occupation, amount and source of income, vocational skills, employability, and liabilities of each spouse;
  • the needs of each spouse;
  • whether the apportionment is in lieu of or in addition to maintenance;
  • the present and potential earning capability of each party; and
  • retirement benefits, including, but not limited to, social security, civil service, military and railroad retirement benefits.

Marital Property vs. Separate Property

Community property includes all earnings during marriage and everything acquired with those earnings. Community property means all property and debt from the marriage date until the marital cut-off date. All debts incurred during marriage, unless the creditor wants the separate property of one spouse for payment, are community property debts. Separate property of one spouse includes gifts and inheritances given to one spouse, personal injury awards received by that spouse, and the proceeds of a pension that vested (that is, the pensioner became legally entitled to receive it) before marriage. Property purchased with the separate funds of a spouse remains that spouse's separate property.

Valuing and Dividing Property

All marital property will be divided in a 50-50 fashion according to the court unless agreed to otherwise by the divorcing spouses. This means that everything "in the pot" is distributed equally to each spouse. In this, the court gives the spouses assets of equal value.

The Marital Home

In Idaho, as in many jurisdictions, the equity in the marital home is often one of the biggest assets the spouses divide. The equity is the market value of the house, less any debts or liens against it. Equity is established by determining what the current market value of the home is at the time of separation. Once the spouses agree to a current market value, any debts associated with the property (mortgage, taxes, home equity loans, etc.) are deducted from the market value to arrive at the equity to be divided. Normally, making this calculation requires a paid real estate appraisal or a real estate agent can prepare a market analysis for free.

From there, couples choose one of three options to divide the equity:

  • The spouses sell the home and divide the proceeds.
  • One of the parties may refinance the home and buy out the other party.
  • One spouse (usually the custodial parent) remains in the home with the exclusive use and possession for a certain period of time (for example, until the youngest child graduates from high school), then either buys out the other spouse or sells the home and divides the proceeds.

Pensions and Retirement Accounts

In Idaho, vested pensions are marital property. A pension vests when all the requirements to receive the pension have been met. Unvested pensions are also marital property. Until the pension has vested, the person under whom the pension is maintained has only an expectancy of interest in the pension.

Several different methods of valuation are used in determining how much a marital asset is worth, depending upon the asset to be valued and the level of agreement between the parties. Courts generally accept the value when the spouses mutually agree on a value of a particular asset. Experts may be retained by the parties or by the courts to determine the value of marital assets if the parties cannot agree. Such experts may include accountants, real estate or business appraisers, or pension valuators. The use of experts adds to the cost of the divorce.

In Idaho, the court may include the retirement benefits and plans earned by both spouses as marital assets available for division. Retirement benefits vary greatly but can generally be divided into two groups:

  • Defined Contribution Plans: A defined amount of money belonging to the employee. The employee and/or the employer make defined contributions. The balance of the plan is constantly changing, but its value is definable at any given point. 401(k)s, 403(b)s and profit sharing plans fall into this category.
  • Defined Benefit Plans: A retirement benefit where an employer promises to pay a benefit to an employee sometime in the future, based upon some type of formula. Normally, this formula is based on the employees salary near the end of his or her career and the number of years he or she worked for the employer before retirement. Defined benefit plans are much more complicated to value and often require the professional evaluation of an actuary to determine exact values.

In Idaho, if spouses share in each others retirement or pension plan, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order must be completed. A QDRO is a written set of instructions that explains to a plan administrator that two parties are dividing pension benefits. The instructions set forth the terms and conditions of the distribution - how much of the benefits are to be paid to each party, when such benefits can be paid, how such benefits should be paid, etc.

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