What Divorcing Couples Should Know About Martial Property And Debts

It's time to begin looking at your belongings differently now that you are divorcing. Your marital property and debts are about to be divided up. How they will be divided depends on your state of residence, however. Read on to learn more.

What is Marital Property? 

Marital property is defined as things you acquire or purchase after getting married. Anything you owned prior to your marriage still belongs to you alone. Also, if something was given to you and only you, it is yours to keep and not marital property. Inheritances also belong only to the person who inherited them. As far as things won, such as with gambling, that varies from state to state, particularly when it comes to something major like lottery winnings.

One issue with the marital property is when it's intermingled. Intermingling is when you mix up your own, single property with marital property or your spouse's single property. Bank accounts are a good example of intermingling. A personal, single bank account might be used by the other spouse to deposit money from income. Then, that money might be used as a down payment on a home. In cases of intermingling, it can take some untangling to figure out who the property belongs to. A forensic accountant may need to be brought in to break things down unless the parties can agree on property divisions themselves. 

Marital property can be anything from furniture and vehicles to stocks and artwork. It's advisable that divorcing couples assemble a list of their assets with an indication of when they were acquired for their divorce lawyer. By the way, pets, in most states, are not custodial issues but property issues. If the pet was acquired by both parties, the pet belongs to both until a decision is made.

What is Marital Debt?

As you might imagine, some of the same guidelines that govern marital property also deal with marital debt. Debt already in existence at the time of the marriage remains under the responsibility of the debtor. Debts acquired jointly are marital debts. When the parties have credit cards in their own names, which is common, the debt is considered marital debt if they acquired the card after marriage. There is no such thing as a comingled debt, though. Even if the debt was used to pay for marital expenses, it remains a personal debt if acquire initially prior to the marriage.

Some states use community property laws and some use equitable distribution laws to help divide up debt and assets. Speak to a family law attorney to learn more about marital debt and property.