Keeping separate property out of property division

As young adults in California prioritize their careers, they tend to put off marriage until a later time. The intervening years between establishing a career and tying the knot are often a prime opportunity to accumulate a large amount of personal property, and combining those items during marriage is not always easy. When dealing with separate and marital property, keep the following in mind to avoid huge property division headaches.

One of the easiest ways to formally document separate and personal property is to use a prenuptial agreement. Couples can use a prenup to list their personal property before tying the knot, ensuring that these items will not be subject to community property division if they divorce. However, not everybody is in favor of these documents.

There are still options for those who either do not wish to use a prenup or who have already tied to the knot. These individuals may want to make sure that their separate property does not make the leap to marital property, and the best way to do this is by remaining vigilant handling it. This means keeping things like personal financial assets in separate accounts. Commingling — or mixing a separate property with marital property — can lead to undesirable results.

An important thing to remember is that while some property might remain separate, an increase in value on that property could amount to marital property. Think of a business that was started before a person got married. If the individual did not sign a prenup stating that his or her business interests are wholly separate property, any appreciation in value will likely be considered marital property.

At face value, determining which property is separate and which is marital seems pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, it is more complicated than most people in California think. While using a prenup to figure out property division beforehand can be helpful, those who did not take this step and are now going through a divorce may want to consider seeking guidance from an experienced attorney.

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