Like most U.S. states, Ohio recognizes “equitable distribution” when courts divide marital property (both assets and debts) in a divorce.Generally, marital property is everything that was acquired from the date of the marriage until the divorce decree is finalized, and often includes all real estate currently owned by one or both spouses, retirement benefits, funds from a public employee deferred compensation account, and income and appreciation from the other spouse’s monetary or in-kind contributions during the marriage. But what about a house you owned before you got married, or an inheritance from a grandparent? Do those have to be included in a marital property distribution?
What’s yours to keep…
The general rule is that if you owned it before you were married, if it was never used for the benefit of your spouse, of it was a gift or an inheritance, it is separate property and not subject to equitable distribution. Common examples include:
- A house or other real estate, a car, boat or other vehicle that you owned prior to your marriage is separate property
- Stocks or bonds that you owned prior to your marriage, and any change in value during the marriage are yours, but any additional stock purchases and the increase in their value during the course of your marriage will be marital property.
- Compensation from a personal injury lawsuit is separate property, except any portion that may have been awarded for loss of wages.
- A gift that was specifically given to you is separate property. For example, if you were given a new car for your birthday, it’s yours, even if it was given to you while you were married. However, be prepared to show proof that it was a gift to you alone.
- If you received an inheritance from a relative, it’s yours to keep, even if it was received while you were married.
- Your personal engagement and wedding ring (or their value).
- Anything that was agreed to in advance or is in a prenuptial agreement as belonging to one spouse or the other is likely to be separate property.
Where things get tricky…
Premarital bank, stock, and retirement accounts, even if they are in your name alone, , may be considered partial marital property if you continued to pay into these accounts during the marriage. Likewise, if you owned a car or house prior to the marriage, but paid a mortgage and taxes out of marital income during the marriage, then some of the value of the car or house may be marital property.. Businesses can also cause issues when determining separate or marital property. Even though you own the business, if your spouse contributed time, funds or sweat equity, or in any way contributed to the growth or sustenance of the business, they may have some claim to it as marital property.
Most importantly – you have the burden of proving that property is your separate property. If you cannot prove this, the court may divide it as marital.
Make sure that you get what is rightfully your separate property in a divorce
To find out more about determining separate versus marital property, talk to our knowledgeable Columbus, Ohio divorce attorneys. Please call us at 614-505-5555 or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation.