Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

What kind of property is divided between spouses in a divorce?

Marriage between Salt Lake City residents is often thought of as an occasion where two people become one. The joinder between spouses is not only true in an emotional sense, but practically as well, as the two spouses frequently combine their assets together following the marriage.

Last week, this blog discussed how important it is to properly divide the couple's joint property during a divorce proceeding. Not only must the joint property be distributed between the individuals, but joint accounts and the like must be addressed to ensure one person is not held liable for the other's debts in the future.

In many other marriages, couples choose to keep their property separate from one another following the marriage. This can result in different property division issues during a later divorce proceeding.

While marital property is typically divided in an equitable manner between the individuals, individuals may be entitled to keep property they owned separately before the marriage. The same is true with inheritances or gifts obtained solely by one spouse. This non-marital property is not subject to distribution, because it belongs solely to one spouse or the other.

At the same time, it is common for a dispute to arise as to whether property should be considered marital or non-marital property. In a high asset divorce, for example, one spouse may claim to own significantly more property than the other, and may argue this property cannot be divided between the spouses because it is non-marital property.

In these instances, the court may need to decide whether property qualifies as marital or non-marital property, which will impact whether it is distributed between the two spouses. This is typically a fact-sensitive inquiry, as the court must examine the circumstances of how the property came to be owned, and how the spouses treated the property during the marriage.

Source: Utah Courts, "Property division," accessed on April 23, 2016

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