Many people fail to appreciate just how legally binding a marriage can be, especially in an era when more than half of all marriages end in divorce. The common nature of divorce often serves to undermine just how much marriage may complicate your assets if you are not careful. Traditional ideas about “what’s mine is yours” are certainly admirable from a relationship standpoint, but can end up creating unnecessary tensions once divorce gets underway. Even if you do not anticipate divorcing (and who does?), you can keep tensions low and potential conflicts minimal by following a few guidelines for handling individual assets.
In general, you always want to be aware of keeping marital and non marital property separate. This can be trickier than you might expect. For instance, if you take income that you earn during your marriage (which is almost always considered marital property) and put it into a non-marital account that existed prior to your marriage, you may cause that account to become marital property. In contrast, if you take resources that have been kept non-marital and use them to pay down a debt within your marriage, this may also result in those resources becoming a marital asset.
Even though property or business interests owned prior to a marriage are usually considered non-marital property, this is not a hard and fast rule. Pre-marriage property that accrues value throughout the course of the marriage, such as a home, may have that accrued value ruled to be marital property. Similarly, a business that is owned apart from the marriage may be partially considered marital property if your spouse contributes in some way that increases its value.
When divorce comes knocking, it can be difficult to keep a clear view on fair division of assets. Each side is often intent on getting everything they can or using the settlement negotiations to punish the other party. It is always wise to have high-quality legal counsel when entering into such a negotiation, in order to keep your priorities straight and your rights protected while you navigate this difficult season of life.