Upon the dissolution of a long-term marriage, an equal division of property is common as the parties accumulated that property through their joint efforts. While it is conclusively presumed that each spouse substantially contributed to the acquisition of income and property while living together as husband and wife, an equitable property division does not necessarily require an equal distribution.
Note that the “conclusive presumption” refers to a substantial contribution, but the statute does not state that this must be an equal contribution. Also, the conclusive presumption does not apply to appreciation, preservation, or depreciation.
Once this conclusive presumption is applied, however, the trial court may determine that a fair division is not 50/50. Instead, it may consider the relevant statutory factors and determine that a fair division is not an equal division. The trial court must take into account the relevant statutory factors in its analysis and make findings to support its decision that an unequal division is an equitable division.
Although district courts are not restrained by a bright-line outer limit when determining that an unequal division of marital property is appropriate, the court of appeals has noted it has been more willing to hold that an unequal property division was within a district court’s discretion when the division did not exceed a 66/33 split.
Thus, the trial court’s division of property must ultimately be based on the particular facts and circumstances of each case, taking into consideration the contribution of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation in the amount of value of the property.