Commingling Your Home
Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that in the event of divorce, a couple’s assets will be divided equitably between the two parties. Although many people interpret this as meaning that a couple’s property will be distributed equally, the reality is that Florida law only requires that the assets be divided fairly. The process of deciding what is a fair distribution requires an analysis of which assets are marital and which qualify as non-marital. Generally, assets that are obtained prior to a marriage are considered separate property and so are not divisible upon divorce, while property purchased or obtained after the wedding falls under the category of marital assets and must be distributed equitably. However, there is an exception, known as commingling, in which non-marital property can become marital property.
Determining which assets qualify as marital property can be a complicated process, but is critical to the outcome of a property settlement, so if you are considering divorce and have questions about which assets you will be able to retain, it is important to speak with an experienced property division lawyer who can help you determine which of your assets must be divided.
What is a Commingled Asset?
Non-marital assets, or assets that were acquired prior to a marriage by one of the spouses are generally considered the sole property of the original owner. There is an exception, however, that applies when one spouse’s non-marital assets become inextricably commingled with marital assets. In most cases, when discussing commingled assets, courts are referring to bank accounts and financial assets. For example, if one spouse had $50,000 in a bank account at the time of his or her marriage, but over the next five years, placed both his or her paycheck, as well as the spouse’s paycheck into the account and used it for joint expenses, those assets would be considered commingled. This in turn, would result in the entire account being labeled marital property, regardless of the fact that the spouse who initially opened the account had $50,000 in separate assets at the beginning of the marriage.
This principle also applies to physical property, such as the family home. If, for instance, a person purchased a home on his or her own, but later got married, at which point, his or her spouse moved in to the residence and the parties began using a joint bank account to pay the mortgage bill, the property could be considered marital property. This is because both parties used their income to pay monthly expenses, transferring the home from the sole ownership of one spouse to both for the purposes of property division. This is true even if the initial owner’s name is the only one on the title.
Call Today for Legal Advice
It can be difficult to determine whether an asset has been commingled when it involves physical property, such as real estate, so if you and your spouse are divorcing and you believe that your home qualifies as non-marital property, please contact dedicated property division attorney Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale at 954-945-7591 for a free evaluation of your case.