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What Happens to Property You Owned Before Marriage in a Divorce

When you got married, you probably didn’t think about what would happen if the relationship didn’t work out. None of us does. We are optimistic when exchanging vows and are focused on a blissfully happy future.

But, unfortunately, not every marriage lasts. So, what does happen when a marriage fails? While you might make arrangements for the property you own together, you might neglect to think about the home, business or other property you brought into the marriage. Does that automatically stay with you, or are you at risk of losing it to your former spouse?

Learn more about what happens to property you brought into a marriage after your divorce.

How Property Is Divided During Divorce

Going through a divorce can be unpleasant. People can get hurt, regretful things can be said, and things can get heated when it comes to splitting up property. Fortunately, there are preparations you can take to make the process easier.

One of the first things you can do is to make a list of all of your property – both marital and separate property. Your separate property can include homes, inheritances, and gifts that you had prior to your marriage. Typically, this property stays with the spouse who owned it before the marriage. It could also include property you purchased during the marriage with separate property income, such as an inheritance.

Marital property usually includes all property you obtained during the marriage, with certain exceptions, such as an inheritance. This property will need to be divided equally, unless you reach a settlement out of court.

Exceptions to the Rule

    While the separate property is typically awarded to the spouse who owned it before the marriage, there are a few exceptions. These can include:
  • Commingled marital property: If the property you owned before marriage is combined with other marital property during the marriage, its value will need to be determined and separated from the value of the marital property.
  • The contribution theory: If the other spouse has direct involvement or spends money on the other spouse’s property, a judge could award up to ½ of the value of the property to the other person. This could include separate property that you renovated during the marriage using community property income.
  • Inheritance: Usually an inheritance received during the marriage is considered separate property.
  • Gifts: A gift that was given to your spouse during the marriage, even if purchased with your separate property income, is usually considered to be your spouse’s property. The most common examples are wedding rings and other jewelry gifted to the other spouse.

Property division can be complicated. Attorneys Deirdre Kingsbury and Noreen Evans understand the legal intricacies involved in divorce and splitting property. If you are going through divorce proceedings, let them help to make sure your interests are represented. At Evans Kingsbury LLP, we are family lawyers with decades of experience. Call us today at (707) 596-6090 or fill out our easy contact form to discuss your situation.

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