Most marital property has to be divided during the divorce process. That said, separate property is often protected from this division.
The key is in determining what is separate property and what is owned by both individuals as a married couple. It can be tricky, but a few examples of separate property include:
- Items that you owned before you and your spouse tied the knot, such as a car.
- Money that you got as an inheritance from one of your parents or another relative, such as a grandparent.
- Money that was given to you directly as a gift.
- Items that you acquired by trading other separate property. For instance, perhaps you owned a Jeep Wrangler before the marriage and swapped it for a Toyota FJ Cruiser after getting married. The FJ may still be yours alone, despite being acquired while you were married.
- Items you bought with money that was separate property, such as a car purchased exclusively with the aforementioned inheritance.
- Debt that either one of you already had before you got married, such as student loans.
Now, again, things aren't always as cut-and-dry as you'd like. If you get an inheritance and keep it apart from all other funds, it may stay separate property. If you commingle it with your spouse's money in a joint bank account and use it to pay the rent for a few months, it may become marital property.
As you can see, dividing up assets can get complicated, which is why it's so important to know your rights and all of the legal options that you have during divorce.
Source: Money Crashers, "Community Property States vs. Separate Property – Definitions & Laws," Kandice Bridges, accessed Jan. 04, 2018