When two people get married, any assets either spouse owned before the marriage generally remain under the exclusive ownership of the original owner. Many couples sign a prenuptial agreement before getting married to ensure assets that are personally owned remain that way if a couple gets divorced.
However, sometimes both spouses use their personal property and money in a way that causes something called “commingling,” or the mixing of individual and marital assets. When a couple decides to get divorced, commingled assets can make it difficult to determine which parts of an asset or bank account belongs to which spouse during the asset division process. This can cause conflict when, for example, a spouse who shared his or her inheritance acted with generosity and now faces having to split the entire amount.
Illinois has strict laws when determining how commingled assets are handled, giving legal preference to a commingled asset over the process of “tracing” the source and use of an asset back far enough to prove individual ownership (or lack thereof, if you are the spouse claiming the previously personal asset is now marital). However, many individuals have successfully protected their premarital assets in divorce despite commingling them during the marriage.
How Commingling Happens
Couples frequently mix marital and non-marital assets, especially cash. Small items, such as food and clothing, and even large items, such as vehicles and property, are often bought with whatever money is available to a couple, with little regard to its source. But when this happens, the personally-owned portion of the assets is changed into marital property. Thus, the property becomes commingled and subject to division in a divorce. Tracing can allow a spouse to retain the remainder of the personal property.
Tracing assets is a process through which a spouse can prove that the origin of an asset was personal, allowing the asset to be considered non-marital and not subject to division in the divorce. Inherited funds, previously purchased property, and privately owned businesses are all common examples of personal property that may become commingled during a marriage but can be traced back to try to prove personal ownership. Bank statements, deeds, and financial instruments like wills and trusts can be used in the tracing process.
Work with an Oak Brook Asset Division Lawyer
The process of untangling mixed marital assets can be complex and often requires the help of skilled financial professionals. At Botti Marinaccio, LTD., we will do everything we can to help you prove your individual assets belong to you, including building a team of professionals to work together on your case. Schedule an initial, confidential consultation with one of our experienced Cook County divorce attorneys. Call us today at 630-575-8585.