Most married couples commingle some, if not most, of their assets. They open joint bank accounts, take out joint credit cards and buy homes, cars and other property together.
It simply makes things easier. You’re building a life and likely raising children together. It makes sense to combine your assets. If the marriage doesn’t last, however, couples have to find a way to divide their property and other assets as well as their debts in a way that’s fair — or at least agreeable — to both of them.
One source of conflict and confusion in the property division process is when spouses have brought assets into the marriage that they thought were still their separate property, but they’ve become commingled with their spouse’s assets or marital assets. There are a number of ways this can happen.
For example, say you owned a home when you got married. Your name alone was on the mortgage. However, you began making mortgage payments from a bank account with both your names on it. Your spouse had their paycheck directly deposited into that account. That home is now considered marital property under the law.
Another common example involves inheritances. When your grandmother died, she left you a sizable trust. When you accessed the money in that trust, you deposited it in a joint bank account. Those are now commingled funds.
Even when spouses choose to combine their incomes and savings, they may want to keep some things separate, like inheritances or property they intend to one day leave to children from a previous marriage. That requires ensuring that no funds that belong to their spouse or to both of them as a couple touch it.
Couples can further avoid confusion by having a prenuptial agreement that states which assets being brought into the marriage will be considered separate in a divorce. They still need to avoid commingling funds related to those assets, however.
Property division can be one of the most stressful, time-consuming parts of divorce. It’s essential to ensure that both spouses are open and honest about all of their assets and debts. They can work from there, with the guidance of their attorneys, toward a fair and equitable distribution of those assets and debts.