As nearly the totality of all married couples owns some property jointly, so does almost every individual spouse own property that belongs solely to them. The vast majority of people do not enter a marriage entirely empty-handed. As we discussed in our last blog, it is possible to commingle separate property, thereby adding marital interest to individual property, it is also possible to keep property entirely separated such that in the event of a divorce, your spouse has no claim. Additionally, it is possible – and likely, even – that a married person acquires property during the marriage that exists as separate property. Determining what is marital property and what is separate property is generally the first step toward dividing marital assets during a divorce. This step is essential, whether you plan to mediate, negotiate through attorneys, or litigate your divorce.
Understanding What Separate Property You May Own
It can be more challenging than one may think to accurately label separate as opposed to joint or inextricably commingled. Types of separate property you may own right now include:
- Inheritances – Whether received during the marriage, before the marriage, or while separated, an inheritance belongs solely to the spouse named in a decedent’s estate plan or by intestacy. The policy purpose of this is largely to respect the wishes of a testator, who most likely sought to provide for their own family members, as well as to protect married persons from having family heirlooms or wealth removed.
- Property prior to marriage – In general, property you owned before the marriage remains your separate property before, during, and after the marriage unless you took steps to convert your wealth into marital wealth.
- Gifts – Gifts are usually intended for the recipient, not their spouse. It would make little sense to offer a spouse a claim to a birthday present meant for the other spouse. This can become a subject for debate in the case of gifts clearly intended to be enjoyed by both spouses.
- Personal injury settlements – If you won a settlement or award stemming from a personal injury case, such as a car accident or a slip-and-fall, it remains your property after a divorce – as you were the one personally injured, no one else should have a rightful claim to your compensation.
If you own property in any of these categories, it is quite likely safe during divorce. An attorney can help you understand what is and is not separate property.
Contact an Illinois Divorce Attorney
Calabrese Associates, P.C. is skilled in helping married people to retain possession of their separate property during a divorce. Our experienced Naperville divorce lawyers will strive to leave you in the best financial position possible. Call 630-393-3111 for a free consultation.