How do you tell what’s yours and what belongs to your spouse when you decide to divorce?
That’s not an easy question to answer, especially if you’ve been married for a while. You may have brought certain assets, like a house or a car, into the marriage, but they may no longer be solely yours if you’ve commingled them with your spouse’s assets in some way.
Once assets become commingled — mixed together — spouses often have a much harder time dividing them again in a divorce.
How do separate assets become marital ones?
Any assets that you come into the marriage with generally remain your separate property. Certain other assets, like gifts, inheritances and auto accident settlements, are also considered separate property even if you receive them during your marriage.
However, imagine that you receive an inheritance and deposit those funds in a joint bank account. That would convert that money from your separate property to marital funds. Similarly, if your spouse contributed to the upkeep and repairs on the home you bought before your marriage, some part of that home’s value may now belong to you both.
If the two of you combined resources to purchase a vehicle, television, washer or dryer, then those would all fall under the umbrella of marital property. Joint checking or savings accounts, investment accounts that you have both contributed to would also constitute marital property.
How can you avoid commingling assets?
There are ways in which you can avoid commingling separate assets. One of the most popular is to include a description of separate property in a prenuptial agreement. You should also keep separate property only in your name and maintain it yourself alone as well. You should keep a separate bank account from your spouse and never add them as an authorized user on your account.
Determining what to do if you don’t have a prenup and you’re worried about the division of assets comes down to strategy. An attorney can advise you of your choices when all options seem limited on the surface.