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What’s Mine Is Yours? Understanding Marriage Property vs. Separate Property in Divorce


A divorce inevitably means you and your spouse will need to divide your assets, everything from your vehicles to your 401k. How in the world are you supposed to figure out who owns what or, more importantly, what portion of your shared property is yours? The first place to start is to gain an understanding of what constitutes marital property (also called “common property”) and separate property.

What Is Marital Property?

In a nutshell, marital property is defined as any property a partner earns or acquires while married. Don’t let the word “property” throw you. Marital property doesn’t have to be a physical object, like a truck or a house, though those items can definitely be marital property. Items like paychecks, mutual fund investments, airline miles, and even professional licenses can all be considered marital property. Likewise, debt – like a mortgage – can also be marital property if it was acquired during the course of the marriage.

What Is Separate Property?

Separate property is solely owned by one spouse and is not considered part of the marital estate. The rules for separate property can get a little complex, but generally speaking, separate property includes:

  • And property or assets a spouse owned before the marriage.

  • Any inheritance received by a spouse

  • Any gift given to a spouse (example: your mother gives you the family china collection)


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