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Determining shared and separate property allocations

When you're going to get a divorce, one of the things that you have to determine is who owns what. Marital property is primarily property that you have gained during your marriage, but there are some items, like items you had before your marriage, that may be marital property now or still be considered yours alone.

There are two different kinds of states in the United States when it comes to divorce. The first is a common law property state and the second is a community property state. Why is it important to understand both? Once you do, better decision about which state you want to get a divorce in, particularly if your spouse has moved and is a resident of a different state.

In a common-law property state, any property that you buy that is put into your name belongs solely to you. If a title or deed is placed into both you and your spouse's names, then it will belong to both of you in the eyes of the law. If you purchase a gift for your spouse and put it into his or her name, that gift will be his or hers alone.

On the other hand, if you live in a community property state, anything you purchased during your marriage is considered to be marital property. That means that both you and your husband or wife own the property jointly. There is still a possibility for separate property allocations, so if you have debts or assets from before your marriage, those may be yours alone. However, separate property that you place into a joint bank account or use for the good of your family can turn into marital property by proxy. This complicated arrangement is why speaking with a legal professional to determine the status of your assets can be of help.

Source: FindLaw, "Who Owns What in Marital Property?," accessed Oct. 28, 2016

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