Are There Gray Areas? Can Separate Property Ever Become Marital Property?

Joanne P. Monagan, Esq.

There are some common pitfalls that people may be unaware of that may change separate property into marital property. For example, if one spouse receives a personal injury settlement and deposits the funds into a joint bank account with the other spouse, this separate property has become marital. The idea is that the receiving spouse has intentionally changed the ownership of a separate property from separate to marital by depositing it in a joint account where both spouses are titleholders and have the legal ability to access all the funds in this joint account. This concept also applies to inheritance proceeds. For example, if one spouse inherits a parent's home and decides to refinance the property to make improvements, and both spouses' names are the new mortgage, and the title is transferred into both names, the property has become marital.

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