Law Offices of Barry I. Finkel, P.A.
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Marriage complications that can endanger your separate property

In most Florida divorces, the courts will help the couple split their marital assets in a fair and reasonable manner while allowing each individual spouse to maintain their personal property as separate property. Separate property often includes items you owned outright prior to marriage, gifts you received from someone other than your spouse and an inheritance.

However, there are circumstances in which assets that would typically remain your separate property end up vulnerable to division in a Florida divorce. If something happens to change an asset from separate property to shared or marital property, the courts may split it.

Knowing two of the most common reasons why the courts may decide to treat your separate property as marital property can help you better understand how the courts will approach your marriage's unique situation during the asset division process.

Did you commingle your separate assets with household assets?

The fastest way to make an otherwise separate asset vulnerable to division is to commingle it with marital assets. For example, if you received a lump-sum inheritance from a loved one and you deposit those funds into a shared bank account, the courts could well view those funds as marital property because of the decision to deposit it in a shared account.

Giving your spouse access to an account that holds your separate property, particularly if you add them to the account, can also potentially give them a claim to a share of that asset. Even using marital assets to cover the expenses of maintaining your separate property could leave it vulnerable to division.

Did your spouse substantially contribute to the maintenance of your property?

Although this rule typically applies to physical assets, such as a home or a vehicle, even financial assets could potentially become vulnerable through the efforts of one spouse to maintain or improve that asset.

If you inherit a family home or had purchased your home outright prior to marriage, you might assume that your spouse has no claim to it. Still, over the years, your spouse has likely assisted in paying property taxes and utilities, cleaning the inside, maintaining the yard and fulfilling other important obligations that allow the property to maintain its value.

If your spouse made financial or practical contributions to the maintenance or improvement of an existing asset, they may have a claim to a shared interest in that asset. Additionally, if your spouse plays a role in financing or refinancing an asset, its maintenance or any improvements to the asset, that may also push the courts to treat the asset as marital property instead of separate property. The sooner you take steps to protect your separate property, the better your chances of a positive outcome.

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