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Understanding separate property in divorce

When it comes to dividing property in divorce, where you choose to divorce often affects how the division plays out. Each state maintains its own laws that govern how divorces proceed, from what causes for the divorce are allowable to how alimony is calculated.

Several states use community property guidelines to determine how couples divide marital property. Under community property guidelines, all marital property must be divided equally. New York, and the majority of other states, use equitable division guidelines, which require that marital property be divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. Does this mean that everything you and your spouse own is up for grabs? No, generally divorces only divide up marital property, and leave separate property alone.

Separate property definitions vary from state to state, but the broad strokes are fairly consistent. If you owned a piece of property prior to your marriage, this is probably separate property unless your spouse has invested significantly into it. Also, certain types of gifts generally remain separate property, like inheritances and gifts to a specific spouse, such as the husband's father giving the husband a nice set of tools or the wife receiving a piece of jewelry from her sister. Similarly, if one spouse receives a settlement for pain and suffering in a personal injury lawsuit, this is usually separate property.

If you have concerns about the process of dividing up your property in your divorce, don't wait to reach out for help. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you understand the scope of property division and create a strategy to achieve the divorce you want.

Source: HuffPost, "Understanding How Assets Get Divided In Divorce," Jeff Landers, accessed Sep. 08, 2017

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