Marital Property and Separate Property (and Debt) – What is the Difference and Why Does it Matter?

Whether a marriage is short-lived or long-term, couples typically acquire some level of property and debt during their union. The division of property and debt is a major portion of any divorce action. We frequently hear things like, “Well, the car is only titled in my name, so he doesn’t have any right to it” or “The house is only in my name, so it’s my own property” during our conversations with clients. Although these beliefs seem straight-forward enough, they are not always accurate. Generally, any property that is acquired, or debts that are incurred, during the marriage is marital property or marital debt. What that means is regardless of whose name the property is titled in, or who incurred the debt, if the property or debt were acquired or incurred during the marriage, both parties are equally entitled to the property or responsible for the debt. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but these exceptions apply in specific and narrow circumstances.

Generally, separate property (or non-marital property) is property that only one party to the divorce has an interest in. Examples of separate property are: property that one spouse owned before the marriage; inheritances under certain circumstances; property that the parties agree is separate property; and certain personal injury awards. Separate property can also be converted into marital property under certain circumstances.

In a divorce action, it is important to understand which property and debts are marital and which are separate. These classifications ultimately impact the division of property and debt in a divorce action. Without a firm understanding of these concepts, a party may be left out in the cold or worse, stuck with a mountain of debt. This is especially true where one party is represented by an attorney and the other is not. Although people commonly resort to self-help with divorce cases, it is important to consult a lawyer to make sure your interests are protected. Too frequently are we contacted by clients who resorted to self-help methods and are now in need of legal services after the fact.

At Adams Legal Group, we realize that each situation is unique. That’s why we offer a wide range of legal services to meet the needs of your particular situation – from mediation to individual representation – we are here to help you navigate the often difficult process of divorce. If you would like to learn more about the services we offer in relation to divorce matters, please contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

 

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