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What defines separate property in a divorce?

In Florida, divorce law follows equitable distribution of marriage assets. When dividing property, courts determine what is fair based on specific factors. Most of the time, this results in 50/50 division, but that is not always the case.

One exemption from this process is separate property. There are some assets that are exclusively yours, meaning your former spouse has no claim of ownership. An understanding of what qualifies as separate property will help you during your divorce proceedings.  

Gifts and inheritances

If you receive a large sum of money or expensive asset as a gift from a third party, it is generally excluded from marital property distribution. However, it is important to show evidence that the giver presented the gift to you individually, rather than to you both as a couple.

Likewise, if you receive a bequest from a deceased relative, this inheritance belongs to you alone. This assumes that your family member left the money or asset to you exclusively.

It is crucial that you keep the gift or inheritance separate from other community assets. Once you deposit the monetary value into a joint account, those funds become property of the marriage. In other words, the asset is then fair game for division.

Legal compensation

A personal injury settlement may be exempt from the division of property under a few conditions. Awarded compensation must be for pain and suffering rather than the cost of the injury.

For example, lost wages and medical bills affect the finances of both parties. It then stands to reason that both parties benefit from the lawsuit, provided the court grants a settlement on these grounds. Similar to gifts and inheritances, this money becomes marital property once you mix it with joint accounts.

The division-of-assets procedure can leave you with a lot of questions. Ultimately, the best way to protect separate property is to keep it away from the family’s other finances.

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