In most situations, when a couple files for divorce in the state of Florida, the court will help the couple split up their marital assets in a manner that is considered “reasonable and fair.” However, each spouse is also allowed to retain ownership of the personal property they maintained during the course of their marriage. Examples of separate property include anything a person owned before they got marriage, gifts they received from a person besides their spouse, and any inheritance they may have received.
What everyone needs to understand is that there are some situations where assets that would usually remain as separate property wind up in a vulnerable division during a Florida divorce. If there is something that changes a certain asset from being separate property to marital or shared property, the courts may order it to be split.
Knowing the most common reasons that the courts may make the decision to treat someone’s separate property as shared or marital property will help an individual better understand how the court may approach the marriages unique situation during the actual asset division process.
The quickest way to make something that should be a separate asset vulnerable to being divided is to commingle it with the marital assets. An example of this would be if one person received an inheritance as a lump-sum from someone in their family and they decided to deposit the funds into an account they shared with their spouse. If this were to happen, the courts would automatically view the funds as marital property since they were put into a shared account.
If the person who received the inheritance (or owns the asset) provides their spouse with access to the account that holds the asset, especially if they add their spouse to this account, it may give them ability to make a claim to it during the divorce process. Even if the marital assets were used to cover the costs of maintaining separate property, it may leave it being vulnerable to division during the divorce.
While this is a rule that usually applies to a person’s physical assets, like a vehicle or home, even their financial assets may be vulnerable because of the efforts that one spouse makes to improve or maintain the asset in question.
For example, if one spouse inherits a family home, or if they bought a home before they got married, they may assume that their spouse does not have any claim to it. However, through the years, the non-owner spouse will have probably paid utilities, property taxes, yard maintenance, cleaning the interior, and other obligations to ensure the property maintained its value. If the non-owner spouse made these practical or financial contributions to the improvement or the maintenance of the other person’s existing asset, they may be able to claim a shared interest in it. Also, if the non-owner spouse played any role in the financing or the refinancing of the asset, the improvement or the maintenance of the asset, they can also push the courts to treat it as marital property rather than separate property. The sooner that an individual takes the necessary steps to protect the separate property they have, the better chances they will have to achieve the desired outcome.
If you have questions about asset division or marital or separate property, it’s a good idea to hire a divorce attorney in Florida. At Lewert Law, LLC, we can help with your situation. To learn more, call us at (561) 544-6861.
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