When Separate Property Becomes Marital Property
In Florida, divorcing couples can’t legally end their marriages until they have contended with a number of related issues, like property division. Under the laws of the state, only marital assets, or assets acquired during the marriage, must be split upon divorce. Separate property, or assets acquired by either party before the marriage took place, on the other hand, can remain in the sole possession of the original owner. The status of an asset, however, doesn’t always necessarily stay the same. A separate asset, for instance, can become a marital asset over time or as a result of specific action, like commingling. This can be a confusing part of family law, so if you have questions about property division in Florida, or are having trouble categorizing some of your assets, consider reaching out to an experienced property division lawyer for help.
Defining Separate Property
As we mentioned previously, separate property, in terms of family law, includes any assets that were acquired separately by two people before they got married. A house, for instance, purchased by someone before getting married, would at least initially be considered separate property in the event of divorce. There are, however, some instances in which assets acquired during marriage can still qualify as separate property. This includes:
- Gifts given to only one party by a non-spouse;
- Inheritances left to only one party; and
- Assets obtained in exchange for separate property.
Deciding which assets are separate and which are marital can have significant repercussions on the property division process, as it is only marital property that must be divided equitably, or in a manner deemed fair by the court.
Separate Assets Can Become Marital Property
To add further complexity to an already challenging concept, separate assets can actually lose their separate character and become marital assets over time if they have been commingled. An inheritance, for instance, even when bequeathed to only one spouse can become marital property if the funds are invested into a joint bank account shared with a spouse, as this commingles the assets, making them indistinguishable from the marital assets that were already in the account. Similarly, a person who already owned a home prior to marriage and then moved into that home with a spouse could end up having to divide the proceeds of the property if the spouse helped pay for repairs or maintenance while living in the home.
Speak with a Fort Lauderdale Property Division Lawyer
Although people have the right to retain their separate property during divorce, it’s also true that the separate nature of these assets can change, making them subject to equitable division. To learn more about property division in Florida, or for a thorough evaluation of your own family’s finances while preparing for divorce, please call Fort Lauderdale property division lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. today. You can set up a free consultation by reaching out to a member of our legal team at 954-945-7591, or by sending us a quick online message.