It is not uncommon, particularly in second marriages, to have assets and property that are commingled. This means that a portion of the asset belonged to one of you before you got married but got mixed in with property accrued after the marriage. In a divorce, commingled property is neither separate nor community property and must be divided before it can be included in a divorce settlement. This can be a difficult process, and you want to be sure you are represented by a lawyer who understands the challenges.
Not All Property Is Created Equally
You may be familiar with the concept of separate and community property in a marriage. Separate property are assets and belongings that one party owned before getting married. Community property is any property or assets purchased or accrued during the marriage. In California, separate property remains in the possession of the original owner, while community property is divided equally between the divorcing parties. It is very common for couples in second marriages or later-in-life first marriages to each have separate property. For example, if you owned a car before you got married, the value of that car would not have to be divided in a divorce.
Commingling of Property Is Also Common in Later Marriages
The challenge with separate property arises when it commingles—or mixes—with property accumulated during the marriage. This can happen with real estate property or with retirement accounts and pensions. If, for example, you owned a house before you were married and you sold the house to make the down payment on a house you bought with your spouse, that down payment is considered separate property. However, as you and your spouse both contribute to paying off the mortgage on the house, the house itself is considered community property. Those commingled assets will have to be separated before property is divided in a divorce.
Another common example of commingling property is with retirement accounts. If both partners enter the marriage with IRAs or 401k’s, the contributions made before the marriage are considered separate property while the contributions made during the marriage are community property. Again, the assets will have to be separated before the division of property.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help You Separate Commingled Property
Separating commingled property is often very important for women in a divorce. As a single working woman, you may have earned significant assets before your marriage and then had children and lost your earning potential. In a divorce, you are entitled to the full value of the assets you brought into the marriage. However, if those assets are commingled with marital property, you will need an advocate to help you get them back.
Nathan Law Offices exclusively represent women in divorce, and we understand the unique challenges they face. Contact our Marin County office to find out how we can help you.