Within a marriage, there are generally two kinds of property. Marital property is owned by each spouse collectively. Separate property is owned by just one spouse.
Separate property includes any gifts from people outside the marriage. It also includes inheritance or anything you owned before the marriage. Standards may vary from state to state, and there are always exceptions. These three qualifications, however, generally remain true no matter where you live.
In theory, separate property should always remain yours alone. It is property that originates from outside of the marriage. Some circumstances, however, can cause separate property to become co-mingled.
What Is Co-Mingled Property?
Co-mingled property is, at first, separate. Your spouse’s involvement in that property, however, can tangle the ownership. They may be able to claim a degree of ownership, even if the property didn’t originally belong to them at all.
Imagine you own an antique car that you originally purchased when you were 18. You’ve fixed it up and restored it over time, and you’ve kept it with you as you moved through life. After your marriage, your spouse gets involved. They help you fix it up; they pay for new parts; and they even use it occasionally.
In a situation like this, your spouse may be able to claim partial ownership of the old car.
How to Untangle Co-Mingled Property
If you have property that was once separate, you probably want to keep it for yourself after the divorce.
Here are some ways to untangle co-mingled property in a divorce.
Argue for Sole Ownership
When trying to keep any marital or co-mingled property in a divorce, you must make a case for why it belongs to you.
Let’s look at the car example from above. Perhaps your spouse did make some major contributions to this asset. Even so, you could still build a strong case for why it is rightfully yours. You can argue the length of time you owned it and how you were its main contributor during that time.
Sometimes, you can simply make an argument that the property is clearly “yours.” Despite your spouse’s contributions, everyone in the home understood that you owned the property. Without you, there would be no reason for the asset to be a part of the home, family, or marriage.
Show Opposition to the Property
You may be able to prove that your spouse made it difficult to keep the property in question. Perhaps they constantly badgered you about selling or getting rid of it. In extreme cases, they might have even sabotaged the asset, lowering its value.
Work a Deal with Your Spouse
If necessary, you may be able to make a deal with your spouse to keep the property. You can give them other assets as part of a trade, or you may be able to pay your spouse for their portion of ownership.
If you’re concerned about losing your property in a divorce, our firm can help. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at (407) 753-4111.