It might be hard for California couples to make the distinction between “yours” and “ours” in a marriage. However, there’s a distinct separation between marital property and individual property, also known as separate property.
Defining marital property and separate property?
Marital property is any property or assets that were acquired jointly by the couple during the marriage. This can be things like homes, cars, and even smaller items like wedding gifts or the family dog.
Separate property covers items that belong to you as an individual – such as a car with only your name on its title or an asset you brought with you into the marriage. There are two types of separate property:
- Things you owned before getting married, like cars or bank accounts
- Gifts that you receive as an individual, like inheritance or gift cards
How does separate property become marital?
Separate property becomes marital property through the process of comingling. Comingling is what happens when a married couple shares separate property, regardless of who it was gifted to.
For example, using the same bank account even if there’s only one name on it can set a precedent for separate property to become marital property. In reverse, depositing monetary gifts into a joint account makes that gift marital property.
How a person uses their separate property can impact its transition into marital property. If you use an inheritance to help your spouse pay off household bills, it could be argued that it’s marital property.
Keeping things separate
If you use your separate assets to help with the joint household or share them with your spouse, be prepared to have it become marital property. For things that you want to keep separate, keep it far away from the joint household or accounts.