Long, Murphy & Zung, P.A.

What property remains separate in a high asset divorce?

The process of deciding who gets what, also called asset division, is often one of the most complex and contested aspects of a divorce. Couples rarely agree on how to split what they've acquired during marriage and may not view the same outcomes as reasonable or fair. The more overall assets involved in a divorce, the greater the chance could be for discord between spouses. Barring a legally sound prenuptial agreement, it can be hard to predict the outcome of asset division.

Florida courts strive for fair and equitable division of marital assets. However, that phrase is open for interpretation by the courts, depending on a number of other factors. They will consider the length of your marriage, your individual economic status, the standard of living during the marriage, potential for future employment and much more.

One thing to note, however, is that separate property usually remains exempt from division. So, knowing what property is separate could help you better understand the likely outcome of your divorce.

Many times, money you inherited is separate property

Provided that the decedent named you and not your spouse, any items you inherit are generally initially your separate property. You can typically retain those assets during a divorce without sharing them.

It's important to note, however, that comingling of separate and marital property can result in separate property becoming marital property. So, you might want to think carefully before deposit a financial windfall from a loved one into a joint banking account or use it for household expenses. If you do, you could risk the courts requiring you to split it up in the event of a divorce.

If your inheritance was a home and you share that home with your spouse, he or she might have a claim to some of the value of the home. This could especially true if your spouse engaged in daily cleaning or repairs to the home, or if he or she invested substantial amounts of money in its maintenance.

Items you owned before marriage are separate property

Typically, valuable possessions you owned before marriage remain your separate property. That could include deposits into a retirement account made before marriage, real estate or other valuable assets. Commingling is a concern here as well. If you share these assets freely with your spouse, they could become marital property.

Homes may also become an exception to this rule. As with homes that were part of an inheritance, houses you owned before marrying may remain your own. However, financial or physical investment by your spouse into the property could blur that line.

Gifts often remain separate property

Noninterspousal gifts and presents a person receives usually remain separate property in a divorce. Possible valuable gifts include vehicles, vacation homes, fine art, jewelry and collectibles.

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