The Brandenburg Formula, Separate Property Tracing on Real Estate


JUNE, 2017

Nancy A Hetrick

I’ve been doing separate property tracing for about 5 years now and in a recent case, the attorney involved advised my clients that “the Brandenburg Formula” would be used to determine the Marital portion of the property. Well, I immediately panicked because I had never even heard of such a thing! Seriously? Again I find out there’s something important about being a CDFA that I’ve never heard of? Sigh…

Then, a colleague of mine (thank you Dwayne Grady!) had the same thing come up in a case that he was working on and his attorney actually gave him a copy of the now-mysterious Brandenburg Formula and he was kind enough to share it with me.

I anxiously openend the file expecting to find advanced mathematical concepts or fancy-shmancy legal jargon….that’s not what I found. It was a simple calculation, spelled out with lots and lots of lawyerly WORDS of THE VERY SAME WAY I HAD ALWAYS DONE MY SEPARATE PROPERTY CALCULATIONS! I laughed out loud!

One thing I have learned about being a CDFA is that the legal system is compelled to use case law to validate every single piece of mathematical common sense that is necessary in the dissolution of a marriage. Think Hugg, Nelson, Harrison calculation, etc. All just named for the court cases where these issues first came up.
So – you probably don’t need it but you can impress your attorney partners if you have it, here’s the magical Brandenburg Formula! Abra Cadabra!

The Brandenburg Formula


Nonmarital Contribution (nmc):

Equity in the property at the time of marriage: $ __________

Amount of money spent after marriage, by either spouse, from traceable nonmarital funds in the reduction of mortgage principal: + $ __________

Value of improvements made to the property from such nonmarital funds: + $ __________

Nonmarital Contribution (nmc) = $ __________


Marital Contribution (mc):

Amount of money spent after marriage from other than nonmarital funds in the reduction of mortgage principal: + $ __________

Value of improvements made to the property after the marriage from other than nonmarital funds: + $ __________

Marital Contribution (mc) : = $ __________

Equity (e):

Total Contribution (tc): __________ = nmc __________ + mc __________

nmc/tc x e __________ = ___________ nonmarital property

 mc/tc  x e __________ = ___________ marital property



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