Divorce lawyers use the term asset characterization to cover questions as to whether particular property is part of the marital estate and therefore subject to division, or instead is the separate property of one spouse or the other. Assets characterized as separate property are not included in the marital estate and are not subject to division.
Before you divide marital property in a divorce, you need to know just what assets are included in the marital estate. Sometimes the key property division issues involve disputes over what does and doesn’t constitute marital property.
Advice About Marital or Separate Asset Characterization
Generally speaking, property acquired by each spouse prior to marriage or later by inheritance will be regarded as separate property, while property acquired during the marriage by either spouse will be marital property. Note, however, that Florida law treats gifts between spouses during the marriage as marital property.
The conduct or agreement of the spouses can change the character of separate property to marital property, and the other way around. For example, if one spouse owned a house prior to marriage and later transferred title into both names, a separate asset would generally be converted into a marital asset. Transferring the cash proceeds of an inheritance into a joint bank account could jeopardize the separate character of that asset through commingling.
Hard characterization questions can arise as to the treatment of a separate asset’s appreciation in value during the marriage. If the appreciation simply resulted from inflation or market forces, it’s probably separate property. If the effort of either spouse during marriage contributed to the appreciation in value, however, the increase over the original value is likely a marital asset.
At Brodie & Friedman, P.A. our lawyers have extensive experience with asset characterization problems concerning real estate, professional practices, property acquired before marriage, investment accounts and premarital agreements.
The Boca Raton attorneys at Brodie & Friedman, P.A. know what facts will bear most heavily on asset characterization questions in your situation, and know how to present your position to its maximum advantage. Contact us to learn more about your legal options in complex property division cases.