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What is Considered Marital Property?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Before you can dissolve a marriage in the state of Colorado, all marital property must be divided equitably and legally entered in court as a “property division.”  However, even though Colorado is an “equitable distribution” state, many couples are unclear on what is considered “marital property.”   Working with an experienced Colorado Springs property division lawyer can eliminate any confusion about this issue.

According to Article 10, Sections 14-20-113 of the Colorado statutes, “marital property” can be “acquired by gift, bequest, devise or descent.”  It can also be property that is acquired in exchange for existing marital property, or even property acquired by a spouse after a decree of legal separation.  Even if a couple has a prenuptial agreement, there may still be some marital property that was intentionally excluded from that agreement.  A Colorado Springs property division lawyer will help you take inventory of all marital assets in advance of any mediation or court appearance. 

Basically, everything that was acquired during the course of a marriage will be considered as marital property, including the marital home, vehicles, investments, furniture, vacation properties and more.  A property division lawyer can help you determine which assets should be included in the property division documents, as well as the most reasonable way to divide them up.   

Divorce and Your Marital Assets: Keeping what’s yours and getting what you have coming

As a Colorado Springs divorce attorney I can tell you that property division is often the most difficult aspect of ending a marriage. This should come as no surprise since most couples cite disagreements over money as a major factor in their decision to divorce. Whether you have a little or a lot of money, real estate and other assets to disagree over, the bottom line is that you need to know which assets— and debts, for that matter—are part of the marital estate and which belong to the individuals. My goal with this article is to help you understand what is and is not considered by the court to be marital property in Colorado. This is a starting point and not a substitute for an attorney. Even in an amicable divorce, it pays to have your own lawyer who will help you keep what is yours and take what belongs to you at the end of your marriage.

If you are contemplating divorce you may already be aware that, like most states, Colorado is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that marital assets and debts are to be equitably distributed upon dissolution of the marriage. But as your family law attorney will explain, equitable doesn’t always mean equal; it is about what is fair.

Equitable property divisions

When you’re divorcing, it makes sense to enlist the help of an attorney experienced in property division to ensure that your rights are protected and that your contribution to the marital property is accurately calculated.

In Colorado, property acquired during marriage is considered marital property while property brought into the marriage remains separate from marital property, unless the spouse who brings the property to the marriage adds the spouse to the title at some point during the marriage. You or your spouse may also own patents or other intellectual property that should be considered as part of the divorce settlement. Equity in a home or other real estate, retirement accounts or pensions, stocks and bonds, and tangible property like boats and cars are all examples of the types of marital property that is subject to equitable distribution in a divorce.

In cases where one spouse retains ownership of a home or other real estate that they owned prior to the marriage, the spouse does not have a claim to the property, but may have a right to share in any equity gained during the marriage. The same is true of inheritances, especially if the inherited money is comingled with household funds or deposited into joint accounts, even if the spouse who inherited the money intended for it to remain separate property. As you can see, it is sometimes difficult to know exactly what constitutes marital property. However, an experienced Colorado Springs divorce attorney, like those at Marrison Family Law, knows exactly the types of questions to ask to guide you in making sure all of your marital assets are considered before the settlement is reached.

You should know that not every property division settlement ends up in court. Often, divorcing couples find they can divide up marital assets amicably, although division of debt is sometimes a contentious subject. Debts, like assets are subject to equitable distribution. When there are areas of disagreement, a property division lawyer will recommend mediation. Mediation is where you and your spouse sit down and try to work thing out with the help of a neutral third party who is familiar with Colorado property division law. In cases where the parties are unable to resolve their property division issues through mediation, it may be necessary for the court to divide the marital property.

Be Prepared: 2 Steps You Can Take to Make Property Division Easier

A Colorado Springs property division lawyer can guide you through the complexities of dissolving your marriage and help you make the most informed decisions. However, there are some important steps you can take early in the divorce process that will help your attorney to help you, even if the last thing you might want to think about when your marriage is falling apart is your current financial status. However, now is the time to get organized and gather information that will help secure your financial future.

First, you should order a copy of your credit report and spend some time reviewing it so that you’ll be prepared to consult with your divorce lawyer. This step will help you to see very clearly which marital accounts are jointly held and which are in your name only. This is important, since debt allocation plays a large role in property division. Later, when you meet for a consultation, your lawyer can help you determine the right course of action for each creditor listed on your credit report. Actions you may be advised to take include freezing accounts or removing unauthorized users for your accounts. A review of your credit report may also reveal incorrect information about a debt or include debts do not belong to your or your spouse. A decent credit report will be important later when you need to buy or rent a home or replace a worn out car.

Once your property settlement is complete and a divorce decree is issued, you may want to notify the creditors and credit reporting agencies and make sure all joint accounts are closed.

Next, in addition to credit accounts, you will also want to gather and copy all financial records, including the most recent bank statements, check registers, investment and retirement accounts, mortgage and real estate paperwork. Your property division lawyer will also need copies of your most recent tax returns. This may seem like a cumbersome task, but it will ultimately save you money and time as your divorce actions progress. Your attorney may advise and assist you on freezing accounts that are part of the marital property.

While these two steps may seem overwhelming, especially if you haven’t been involved in the day-to-day financial decisions and bill-paying chores, some time spent gathering and examining your records and resolving credit issues may make the difference as to whether or not you get to keep the assets that are rightfully yours and get the portion of the marital estate that belongs to you. Remember, if you don’t know an asset or debt exists you may end up on the short end of the marital property division settlement stick.

The more complicated a couple’s assets, the more help they will need from an experienced divorce lawyer.  It is in your best interest to shorten the time spent negotiating these issues, because the sooner your divorce becomes final, the less complicated your calculations will be.  If you expect your marital property settlement will be problematic or contested and you want to make sure you get it right, consult with the Colorado Springs family law attorneys at the Marrison Family Law LLC.

Remember, just because Colorado follows equitable distribution guidelines does not mean that property division is 50/50.  When couples cannot agree, the court will make a decision for them, which will be based on various factors. It is during this time that working with a Colorado Springs property division lawyer is especially important. 

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MPatMarrisonFor over a quarter century, we have helped people during what is often the darkest time in their lives. Divorce is not easy even under the best of circumstances. For most people, family is central. Having something go wrong in the family can have a ripple effect that extends beyond the home and into other areas.

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