Who gets the house?
No one wants to think about divorce. But even if you’re happily married, you need to know how a split might affect your assets.
Many women assume that all marital property gets split 50-50—but that’s not true, says Jeffrey Landers, a certified divorce financial analyst in New York.
Moreover, he says, few women understand what marital property is—and that it may be wise to protect your personal assets long before lawyers enter the picture.
Yours, Mine, Ours
Are you entitled to half your home? The profits from that apartment you sold when you were single? The business you started?
What’s “yours” versus being marital property depends on the laws in your state. In 41 states anything that’s marital property would be fiercely negotiated in a divorce. (Only nine states have community property laws, where most assets are split 50-50.)
- Marital property is anything acquired during the marriage, or kept in both your names. That may include your home, car, retirement, investment and bank accounts, your business, a professional license (e.g. a medical or dental license).
- If you owned a condo before the marriage, then sold it and put the profits in a joint account—then it’s marital property.
- If your business grows during the marriage, only the initial investment is yours, the gains are marital property.
- However: If you get a gift or inheritance during the marriage, it remains yours—unless you deposit it in a joint account, whereupon it becomes marital property.
“And once an asset becomes marital property there are no ‘backsies’,” Landers says. “You can’t change it.”
Look up the marital property laws in your state. Think about whether there are assets you would like to keep separate.