Understanding how your private property — things you owned before your marriage (and a few things you may acquire afterward) becomes marital property that’s subject to division in divorce is important for every soon-to-be-married person. We’re talking about commingling.
Simply put, commingling is the process of — perhaps accidentally — turning your separate assets into marital assets. This can give your spouse a chance to claim a portion of assets you thought were only yours.
Two examples of commingling
One example of commingling is taking money from your personal bank account and putting it into a joint account with your new spouse. That money may have been yours before, but this action gives your spouse access to it, and they can claim that they also have a right to it.
Another example is if you bought a home on your own before the marriage. You’ve always paid the mortgage with your own money. If, after you tie the knot, you both use your income to pay the mortgage lender, this can turn your home into marital property. It has been commingled and now belongs, in part, to your spouse.
How you can prevent commingling
There are a few ways to prevent this. First, you can distinctly keep your own property separate, such as maintaining your own bank account that your spouse can’t access. Secondly, you could draft a prenuptial agreement that defines what assets are yours and says that they all go to you in a divorce. No matter what, make sure you know what legal steps to take to protect your interests.