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How can separate property be considered marital property?

The divorce process can be confusing under the best of circumstances. Alabama divorce laws are complex and hard to grasp if you’ve never dealt with them before. This is particularly true when a divorcing couple has many, or varied, assets.

Separate property sounds like a simple idea

On its face, the basic property division laws seem pretty straightforward. Alabama is an equitable distribution state, which means the court will seek to divide property in the manner which it deems most fair to both spouses. It will categorize all of the couple’s assets as either separate property or marital property. The marital property will be subject to equitable distribution while the separate property will remain with the spouse who owns it.

Generally speaking, there’s nothing tricky about separate property. If a spouse owned it prior to the marriage, it should be separate property. Or, if a spouse received a gift or inheritance during the marriage, it should be separate property. But what begins as separate property does no always remain so.

Commingling property

Perhaps the most obvious example of how separate property can change status is that of a home owned by one spouse prior to the marriage. The couple decides to live in that home and, over the years, the other spouse shares in the cost of the mortgage or upkeep. It will now almost certainly be considered marital property.

Any asset owned before the marriage and any gift or inheritance during the marriage runs the risk of being classified as marital property if it is somehow used for the benefit of the marriage. Essentially, some action has been taken or some event has occurred which has created an interest, in the asset, for the non-owning spouse. There are countless examples of how this can happen and the type of asset with which it can occur. It depends entirely on the specific circumstances of the asset and how it was used, making this aspect of property division one which requires experience to handle correctly.


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