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Tiger Woods And Wife: If They Split, How To Divide?

Publication Date: 
December 18, 2009
Los Angeles Times
Jim Peltz and Carol J. Williams

Professor R. Richard Banks, an expert in family law, is quoted on the division of marital property if Tiger Woods and his wife, Elin Nordegren, decide to get divorced in Florida or California:

As the media frenzy enveloping Tiger Woods found new life Thursday with unidentified sources saying that his wife was poised to file for divorce, the Woods saga shifted to questions of how the couple would divide not only custody of their two young children but one of the biggest fortunes in professional sports.

And the outcome likely would depend on several factors, including where the case is filed and the language of any prenuptial agreement between the world's No. 1 golfer and his wife, Elin Nordegren, experts in family law said.


As residents of Florida, Woods and Nordegren would be subject to that state's practices in the division of marital property should they file for divorce, conditions likely to result in an "equitable" distribution of assets rather than an equal one, said Stanford University family law professor Richard Banks.

"What happens in separate property states when a couple divorces is that the court applies what is known as an equitable distribution principle," he said.

"You have to divide the assets equitably, but that doesn't necessarily mean equally," he said. "In fact, the greater the pot of money, the less likely a court is to split it evenly."

In community property states like California, all revenue and income generated during the marriage is jointly shared and would likely be subject to a 50-50 split, Banks said.

But in a separate property state like Florida, "whoever makes the money generally gets to keep it," with provisions made by the court for support and maintenance of an accustomed lifestyle to the dependent spouse, Banks said.


"But the default rules in California are much less favorable for him, as the presumption is a split down the middle," Banks said.