Premarital assets can complicate property division

When couples marry later in life, they typically bring a lot more with them than people in their twenties or early thirties may have. One spouse may have a sizeable retirement account and a house. The other may have a condo that the couple plans to rent out. Both spouses have cars, savings accounts and a good deal of personal property.

If the couple has a prenuptial agreement and decides to divorce, it may simplify the process considerably. But without one, how will they handle property division?

Marital property

Louisiana is a community property state. Anything the couple acquires after the wedding is marital property subject to property division, no matter whose name is on the title. Marital property may include new cars and real estate, money added to retirement accounts since the wedding and personal property.

Marital property may not include the house, condo, savings accounts and personal property the two had before the marriage, but that depends on the circumstances.

Separate property

If a spouse receives $10,000 from a parent and uses that money to buy a diamond ring, the gift and the purchase are separate property. An inheritance is also separate property, as are items each spouse owned before the wedding. All assets in retirement accounts or trusts prior to the marriage are separate, as well.

Commingled property

Any assets owned before the wedding, gifts and inheritances can go from being separate to marital property. How? If the couple uses marital funds for maintenance, upkeep or improvement of an asset, it could become marital property.

For example, say the couple is preparing to rent out the condo. However, they first take money from their joint account to pay for new carpets, a kitchen update and some electrical work in the bathroom. Because both spouses have now contributed to the asset, it officially belongs to both of them. In this example, the property also generates income, so division may become even more complicated.

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