Law Office of Stephen W. Penn and Associates

Separate property: What you should know

When couples decide to end their marriage in California, they are often forced to negotiate who gets what in the divorce settlement. It can be hard to part with items that you have grown attached to over the years. Since all marital property is legally eligible for division in a divorce, however, these items may get divided or sold. There are some instances where separate property is involved, and the items, funds or property may stay with the original owner.

Separate property is property or finances that you owned prior to becoming married or that you received after the marriage was terminated. This property may have also been acquired during the marriage as a gift given to you by a third party, such as inheritance property or money gifted to you by a family member. If you received monetary compensation from a personal injury case or some other type of legal situation, that may be considered separate property as well.

In order to keep this property separate and not at risk of losing it in a divorce, you must be careful not to mix these items with marital property. For example, if you owned a piece of property prior to becoming married, you must keep your name on the title. If you revise the deed of the property to include your spouse's name, that property will be considered marital and may be eligible for division. The same is true with finances. Be sure to keep your inheritance money or compensation in a separate account with only your name on it. Putting these funds into a joint bank account may change the status and put you at risk of losing half.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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  • SCBA | Santa Clara County Bar Association | EST 1917
  • State Bar Of California | California Board Of Legal Specialization | Stephen W. Penn
  • Henry P. Collada Memorial Award 2012